When a surprise copy of M.W. Craven’s The Botanist, book five in the Washington Poe Series, dropped into my parcel box I think you probably could have heard my shriek of delight in space. My enormous thanks to Beth Wright at Little Brown for sending it to me. I’m thrilled to share my review of The Botanist today.
Published by Hachette imprint Constable on 2nd June 2022, The Botanist is available for pre-order through the links here.
‘I swear I’m one bad mood away from calling it black magic and going home . . .’
Detective Sergeant Washington Poe can count on one hand the number of friends he has. And he’d still have his thumb left. There’s the insanely brilliant, guilelessly innocent civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw of course. He’s known his beleaguered boss, Detective Inspector Stephanie Flynn for years as he has his nearest neighbour, full-time shepherd/part-time dog sitter, Victoria.
And then there’s Estelle Doyle. It’s true the caustic pathologist has never walked down the sunny side of the street but this time has she gone too far? Shot twice in the head, her father’s murder appears to be an open and shut case. Estelle has firearms discharge residue on her hands, and, in a house surrounded by fresh snow, hers are the only footprints going in. Since her arrest she’s only said three words: ‘Tell Washington Poe.’
Meanwhile, a poisoner the press have dubbed the Botanist is sending high profile celebrities poems and pressed flowers. The killer seems to be able to walk through walls and, despite the advance notice he gives his victims, and regardless of the security measures the police take, he seems to be able to kill with impunity.
For a man who hates locked room mysteries, this is going to be the longest week of Washington Poe’s life . . .
My Review of The Botanist
Washington Poe has two new cases.
Oh my goodness it was good to be back with Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw. The Botanist is fabulous. Less visceral than other books in the series, but possibly more devious, there’s an increased sophistication in M.W. Craven’s brilliant, intelligent, exciting writing that had me held spellbound.
Each brief chapter is an absolute masterclass in thriller writing. There’s fabulous dialogue imbued with Poe’s wit and Bradshaw’s innocence, fast pace, perfectly crafted plotting and a hook at the end of every chapter that compels the reader onwards. It’s impossible not to be entirely obsessed by reading The Botanist.
Aside from a breath taking plot that simply doesn’t let up and that I don’t want to spoil by saying too much, The Botanist weaves science, retribution, the media and corruption into the narrative so that the reader feels educated as well as entertained. In the same skilful manner with which M.W. Craven ensures those not familiar with Poe and Bradshaw have an insight into their pasts that never slows the pace, so aspects of social history and science are seamlessly woven into the story. It gave me enormous pleasure to find a softer side to Poe in The Botanist that felt exactly right for his character.
The eponymous character is a cracking creation and an excellent depiction of the fine line between brilliance and evil. There’s considerable depth of research into an egotist’s psyche here that lends depth and authenticity to the story. What I enjoyed so much is that even when we, and Poe, know who the perpetrator is, we have no idea how he is committing his killings or how he might be apprehended. I loved the level of tension this gives.
I don’t read all the books in any series because there are simply too many books to get through. M.W. Craven’s Washington Poe Series is the exception and I don’t read these either. I devour them. And then feel completely unsettled until I know I have the next book in the series to read. If you’ve yet to discover Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw you must. Each narrative works perfectly as a stand alone story, but this series deserves to be read from the beginning. I’m totally hooked and possibly obsessed by M.W. Craven’s writing. The Botanist is equally as brilliant as the rest. I absolutely loved it.
About M.W. Craven
Multi-award winning author M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle. He joined the army at sixteen, leaving ten years later to complete a social work degree. Seventeen years after taking up a probation officer role in Cumbria, at the rank of assistant chief officer, he became a full-time author. The Puppet Show, the first book in his Cumbria-set Washington Poe series, was published by Little, Brown in 2018 and went on to win the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger in 2019. It has now been translated into twenty-one languages. Black Summer, the second in the series, was longlisted for the 2020 Gold Dagger as was book three, The Curator. The fourth in the series, Dead Ground, became an instant Sunday Times bestseller and is shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.