Black Summer (Washington Poe #2), by M.W. Craven

Nine stars

After devouring M.W. Craven’s series debut, I was quick to get my hands on a copy of this sequel, which packs just as much punch with its sensational storytelling and strong plot. Washington Poe is still reeling from the fallout of the Immolation Man case and he carries the burns on his hands to prove it. When he is called back up to Cumbria, he cannot be sure if there is more he will have to remember. However, it is another of his past cases that comes to the forefront. Six years ago, Poe helped to put Jared Keaton behind bars for the murder of his daughter. While working in the front of house of her father’s restaurant, Elizabeth Keaton was apparently attacked, spilling enough blood in the kitchen to ensure she could not have survived. However, with no body, it was all circumstantial evidence, which Poe used to ensure the Michelin-star chef did not see the light of day. When a woman claiming to be Elizabeth Keaton stumbles up to a police officer, all bets are off. Poe is sure that Elizabeth is dead, citing the forensics found at the scene, though the blood of this woman matches the victim perfectly. Elizabeth claims that she was abducted, but cannot remember much of anything else. Poe must work fast to see what is going on, calling upon his analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, whose book smarts and social awkwardness may help forge ahead. They explore all the evidence once again and thrust themselves into the cutthroat world of the culinary arts, trying to piece the crime together, while Jared Keaton prepares to be exonerated and Poe’s future hangs in the balance. How can the blood lie, twice, and what happened six years ago to turn things completely upside down? ‘Elizabeth’ disappears again, adding depth to an already confusing set of facts. Poe and Bradshaw will have to work quickly, though with the help of their National Crime Agency colleagues to find answers. There may be something embedded in Keaton’s gastronomical gifts that tells the tale, but time is limited. Another stunning novel that Craven uses to captivate the reader throughout. Not to be missed by fans of the first book, and highly recommended to those who want a stunning read to pass the time.

M.W. Craven takes the reader down one rabbit hole and up another in this stunning sequel that carries on not long after the debut piece. It is not only a wonderful story, but the reader can find themselves in the middle of relentless action while discovering the darker sides of police procedurals. Washington Poe is again front and centre in this piece, with grit and determination to solve the crime offset by a desire to be sociable wherever possible. Poe’s desire to see things through to their completion adds a thread to the story, as he forges ahead to ensure that he truth prevails, even if it could cost him everything. Poe refuses to back down and will work outside the chain of command if he feels that he is in the right, though he understands the need for deference during certain situations, usually of his choosing. The other members of the National Crime Agency prove able to complement Poe and contrast nicely with all he does, particularly Tilly Bradshaw. Her social cluelessness is balanced with extensive knowledge and dedication to working no matter the hour. When not adding levity to the story, Bradshaw is extracting needed results to help Poe prove his point, no matter the location of facts and information. Others work well to keep Poe in line (or defying them) and there is no shortage of clashes throughout this piece. The story was stellar, pulling on both past and present, with excellent detail embedded in a narrative that flows freely. The smallest of facts can prove to be the most important, given enough time and effort, forcing the reader not to discount anything that Craven puts to page. Those looking for something deeper, but not wanting to lug around a thick novel ought to locate M.W. Craven’s work, as he packs a punch like no other in a compact writing style. And now we wait for the next book, to help replicate this awesome feeling of excitement I’ve come to know this week!

Kudos, Mr. Craven, for another strong novel. You surely have a way with words and can captivate me like no other when you put your ideas to paper (or on screen).

This book fulfils Topic #6: Current Equinox in the Equinox #8 Reading Challenge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: