Regular Linda’s Book Bag readers will know just how much I enjoy M.W. Craven’s writing. Consequently, I was thrilled to receive a copy of Dead Ground, the fourth book in the Washington Poe series from lovely Beth Wright at Little Brown in return for an honest review.
When I say that the first two of M. W. Craven’s books in the series were on my books of the year list (here) in 2019 and the third a book of the year in 2020, you’ll understand how delighted I am to share my review of Dead Ground today. You can read my review of The Puppet Show here, of Black Summer here and of The Curator here.
Published by Little Brown imprint Constable on 3rd June 2021, Dead Ground is available for purchase through these links.
Detective Sergeant Washington Poe is in court, fighting eviction from his beloved and isolated croft, when he is summoned to a backstreet brothel in Carlisle where a man has been beaten to death with a baseball bat. Poe is confused – he hunts serial killers and this appears to be a straightforward murder-by-pimp – but his attendance was requested personally, by the kind of people who prefer to remain in the shadows.
As Poe and the socially awkward programmer Tilly Bradshaw delve deeper into the case, they are faced with seemingly unanswerable questions: despite being heavily vetted for a high-profile job, why does nothing in the victim’s background check out? Why was a small ornament left at the murder scene – and why did someone on the investigation team steal it? And what is the connection to a flawlessly executed bank heist three years earlier, a heist where nothing was taken . . .
My Review of Dead Ground
Poe’s in trouble again.
Now, I rarely read a book series because I have so many books awaiting my attention that I don’t want to be tied in to one author. However, not only do I make an exception for M.W. Craven, I think I’d probably walk over hot coals to get my hands on his latest book. This time, Dead Ground, the latest in the Washington Poe series, convinces me that Craven is one of the most brilliant story tellers around. Dead Ground is an absolute corker.
Dead Ground opens with a dramatic, if seemingly unconnected scene to the ensuing narrative, that ensnares the reader from the very first moment. As Tilly and Poe find themselves involved in an unconventional murder, the threads of the story interweave in a thrilling and dynamic manner that makes me wonder just how devious this author’s own mind really is. I found Dead Ground plunged me into a world of conspiracies, drama and events that I found convincing, disturbing and utterly mesmerising. As usual with M.W. Craven, short, fast paced chapters with tantalising cliff hangers imbued with humour, drama and some deliberate obfuscation mean that it is impossible not to read on. Obviously I can’t say too much about the plot for fear of spoiling the read for others, but it is breakneck and exciting.
The relationship between Poe and Tilly is pitch perfect for those who’ve read the whole series, settling into familiar patterns, but M.W. Craven ensures anyone coming to the series afresh can understand and appreciate it easily because of the throw away asides to new or returning characters. This is such skilled writing. What I always find unsettling is the world Tilly inhabits. She makes me question my own online habits so that whilst reading Dead Ground is glorious entertainment, it does raise questions for the reader about their own behaviour too, making it educational as well as thrilling.
Beware if you pick up a book by M.W. Craven. Your life will no longer belong to you. He will hold you spellbound until you’ve read every brilliantly crafted word. He is, without question, one of the most captivating crime writers around and Dead Ground is a fantastic addition to the Washington Poe Tilly Bradshaw series. I thought it was fabulous.
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.