The Curator (Washington Poe #3), by M.W. Craven

Eight stars

After a decent wait, M.W. Craven is back with his sensational Washington Poe series and a mystery that will leave chills up the reader’s spine. It’s Christmas and everyone seems to be in a giving mood, though some are doing more than others. At three separate gatherings over the holidays, severed fingers are found with no trace of their owners. Enter DS Washington Poe of the National Crime Agency and his expertise in serial crimes. Alongside his civilian partner, Matilda ‘Tilly’ Bradshaw, they liaise with the Cumbrian authorities to determine what’s been going on. After a slow process, the fingers are identified, though the people to whom they belong are found murdered. Poe and Bradshaw work to find ties between the victims, but come up short. However, one of the clues leads to a man who breaks down soon after being taken in for questioning. He has been participating in a Black Swan Challenge, an activity run on the dark web by a secret administrator, where challengers are given daily tasks with increased risk to themselves and others. These victims could be tools of a larger and more ominous game, with an administrator who remains highly elusive. When Poe receives a call from an ostracised federal agent in the United States, he learns of The Curator, a mysterious entity who is able to convince victims to rise up and take back control by exacting murderous revenge on those who wronged them. Scoffed at even by those in Cumbria, Poe cannot take The Curator seriously. It is at this point that a similarity between the three victims falls into place and Poe must wonder if he should have accepted the aid given to him with open arms. Might The Curator be running a puppet show of sorts, using a scorned individual to exact a violent act to balance the scales? Poe and Bradshaw work with the locals to hone in on any other victims, as well as who could be a killer in waiting. It will take patience and perseverance, something that Poe usually has in spades. A wonderful instalment in the Washington Poe series that will keep readers devouring this book in short order. Recommended for those who enjoy a chilling thriller, as well as the reader who has come to love all things Washington Poe.

I arrived a little late for the Washington Poe game, but caught up quickly and found that M.W. Craven writes just the sort of book I love when I want some dark thriller writing. Mixing some psychological mind games with a dash of humour, Craven knows how to pen a sensational novel that will keep people talking. Washington Poe is back, fresh from two of his most exhilarating cases, and ready to tackle another. His work is paced and his attention to detail makes sure he rarely misses anything. Balancing his police work with the ever-looming news about his past, Poe is able to keep himself busy, even when he is not actively processing case details. Poe’s characteristics are balanced by Tilly Bradshaw, whose personality is textbook literal, which makes their interactions all the most interesting. Bradshaw is work and only work, though her inability to understand nuance and sarcasm makes for some wonderfully lighter moments in the middle of the case. Tech savvy and always ready with a theory, Bradshaw is the perfect yin to Poe’s yang. A handful of others keep the reader on their toes as they meander through the case, adding flavour to an already rich narrative. The story, like the previous two novels, is top notch and keeps the reader wanting to know more. Mixing great banter with a narrative that pushes along, Craven has created a story that readers will want to keep reading. This is aided by short chapters that lure the reader to ‘read just a few more’ until the experience is one that cannot be stopped until all is known. Craven’s passion for writing appears on every page and this is another one of those crime thrillers that many will be talking about well after they finish the novel, as they pine for the next book and what Poe will discover then!

Kudos, Mr. Craven, for a great addition to the series. You won me over and I hope others will find their way to your Washington Poe (and other) series in the months to come!

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