I couldn’t believe my luck when Beth Wright at Little Brown asked me if I’d like to be part of the launch celebrations for M.W. Craven’s latest book in his Washington Poe series, The Curator. You see two of Mike’s books in the series were on my books of the year list (here) in 2019. You can read my review of The Puppet Show here and of Black Summer here.
Published by Little Brown imprint Constable on 4th June 2020, The Curator is available for purchase through these links.
It’s Christmas and a serial killer is leaving displayed body parts all over Cumbria. A strange message is left at each scene: #BSC6
Called in to investigate, the National Crime Agency’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are faced with a case that makes no sense. Why were some victims anaesthetized, while others died in appalling agony? Why is their only suspect denying what they can irrefutably prove but admitting to things they weren’t even aware of? And why did the victims all take the same two weeks off work three years earlier?
And when a disgraced FBI agent gets in touch things take an even darker turn. Because she doesn’t think Poe is dealing with a serial killer at all; she thinks he’s dealing with someone far, far worse – a man who calls himself the Curator.
And nothing will ever be the same again . . .
My Review of The Curator
It’s another case for Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw.
If you’re going to read a book by M.W. Craven, be warned. You are going to have to set aside your own free will until you’ve consumed every word because he writes with such compelling skill that it is impossible not to be entranced and consumed by his stories. The Curator is no exception. I thought it was astoundingly good – and I had huge expectations because I so loved the first two books in this series, The Puppet Show and Black Summer, but The Curator is equally as fantastic and I loved it.
The Curator opens dramatically, leaving the reader reeling and desperate to know how this narrative will evolve. I love the way M.W. Craven hooks the reader and reels them in with short, pacey chapters that end on startling lines so that you have no choice but to read on. The variety of sentence structure is genius. Longer passages are perfectly balanced by shorter ones that deliver a real punch. Settings are often almost poetically described in a manner that is unexpected in a police procedural, but that makes the narrative all the more entertaining and engaging. Direct speech is natural and works superbly both to move on the story and to provide light relief after very dramatic moments. All these features make reading The Curator an unadulterated pleasure from start to end (and it’s quite an ending!). M.W. Craven really is a master of storytelling because he understands perfectly just how much to reveal and how much to withhold to tantalise and terrify the reader. I became aware of my pulse rate increasing as I read.
Alongside the fast paced, surprising and entertaining plot, the most wonderful element of reading The Curator is returning to the characters of Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw. I adore their relationship because it feels completely authentic. Poe may be a somewhat curmudgeonly man and Tilly socially inept, but their friendship is simply beautiful. There’s real warmth and affection and it feels so good to read about them without the contrived sexual tensions and undercurrents that so often underpin relationships in this genre. Instead, there’s realistic humanity that elevates the narrative by giving it understated and genuine emotion. Although this is the third book in the series, M.W. Craven drops in just enough natural detail about their pasts that it isn’t necessary to have read the previous books. I would recommend that you do however! Indeed, Poe and Tilly are not characters in a book to me any longer. Instead they are people I think about when I’m not reading about them, wondering what they are doing. I miss them!
I can’t emphasise enough how brilliant The Curator is and how wonderful I think M.W. Craven’s writing is. I genuinely believe he is one of the shining stars in the current generation of crime writers. The Curator has gone straight on my list of books of the year for 2020 and I cannot recommend it strongly enough. If you’ve yet to discover Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw, you’re really missing out.
About M.W. Craven
M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle, returning after 31 years to take up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, eventually working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later he took the plunge, accepted redundancy and became a full-time author. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals. His first novel featuring Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw, The Puppet Show, was published by Constable to huge acclaim, and won the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger Award.
M. W. Craven lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne. When he isn’t out with his springer spaniel, or talking nonsense in the pub, he can usually be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country.