Cut Short (Washington Poe #3.5), by M.W. Craven

Eight stars

Always one for more Washington Poe, I turned to this collection of three short stories. Poe and his friend, Tilly Bradshaw , find themselves in three short adventures, each with their own forensic element. Poe is keen to dole out what knowledge he has, though Tilly is no wilting violet. A perfect collection to be paired with a hot drink or to read while out in the sun. Recommended to those who have an affinity for this crime duo, who are always bantering in Cumbria.

The Killing Field

While Poe and Tilly prepare to spend the day at a local exhibition, they are called away from their time off to help inspect a local issue. When they arrive, it is not only two bodies that await them, but a large pit filled with animals from the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak. Someone’s sewn the victims up into two cow carcasses. After listening to what little information there is, Poe can tell who the two men are and what brought them them. Shocking, but he lays it all out for everyone without needing to get sullied at all.

Why Don’t Sheep Shrink?

It all started with a cough, leading to a scandalous means by which Poe has his temperature taken. As Poe needs to self-isolate for a week because of this pesky virus, he will need to find something to do. Tilly, too, is stuck with him, having been around when the symptoms emerged. Little to do other than go for walks—perhaps, a stroll?—and tidy up, Poe and Tilly find themselves searching for ways to pass the time. When Poe comes across an old case that stumped him, they take up the challenge.

A man was found drowned in his bathtub, apparently having suffered an epileptic seizure. While no one could find anything sinister, the victim’s sister was sure there was some foul play. All eyes turned to the man’s partner, though there was nothing tying her to the crime. Given an hour, Tilly uses her know-how and some keen observations and cracks the case wide open.

Dead Man’s Fingers

In line with the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak, and having just come off their isolation, Poe and Tilly are out in the fields. Poe remembers a case from back in 2001, where two star-crossed teenagers could not get enough of one another, one bringing infection back from the other’s farm. With all the livestock to be culled, the teens disappear. Could have left for the continent, or did someone have a more macabre idea? Poe and Tilly work together, with the help of a rabbit-chasing dog, to stumble upon a clue or two that solves the case.

I have enjoyed the Washington Poe series since first I discovered the work by M.W. Craven. The pieces are not only full of wonderful character development and dialogue, but the cases are quite detailed. These are much shorter stories, but they pull the reader in just as effectively. Poe and Tilly work to pool their talents to solve three cases quite effectively. The reader will notice how each differs from the other, though the writing could be part of an almost continuous string of days that the two spent together. There’s little time for development or secondary characters, but those who have come to enjoy this duo will find a great deal to make them smile. I’m glad to have found this collection, as I wait for the next full-length novel.

Kudos, Mr. Craven, for reminding me just how great a shorter piece can be.

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