Published by Constable,
3 September 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-47213-504-9 (PB)
contains three cold case short stories featuring Detective Sergeant Washington
Poe and his friend and colleague Tilly Bradshaw of the Serious Crime Analysis
Section of the National Crime Agency. The two detectives are very different
characters. Poe is a down-to-earth country man, whose knowledge of the history
of his Cumbrian countryside combines with his understanding of human nature to
produce his formidable detective skills. Bradshaw is a genius who has
unequalled knowledge of science and technology but little understanding of
everyday human desires.
The two detectives are on leave and in
the first story, The Killing Field, Poe is rescued from Bradshaw’s
proposed pleasure trip to Sellafield Visitor Centre by a summons from a senior
officer asking for help. When Poe realises their destination he thinks that
even interactive games dressed up as an isotope at Sellafield would be
preferable to revisiting the land known locally as the killing fields, the
largest mass grave in the world, where half a million animals were slaughtered
and buried during the foot and mouth outbreak that devastated the countryside. One
of the burial pits had developed a leak and, while dealing with it, the remains
of two men were discovered. The men had died in a horrific way and the officer
in charge of the case needs Poe’s local knowledge and understanding of the time
to make sense of the crime.
In the second story, Why Don’t Sheep
Shrink?, it seems possible that Poe has contracted covid-19, and, as
Bradshaw has been in company with him, she has to isolate with him rather than
returning to her hotel. Although they are good friends, Bradshaw and Poe are
two people who are happiest alone, and this promises to be a very stressful
time, however, to break the monotony, Poe shares with Bradshaw a case that has
been worrying him for years. When Michael Sims had drowned in his bath
following an epileptic seizure, the case had never officially been a case
because the coroner had returned a verdict of misadventure. However, Sims’
sister had been convinced that he was murdered, and Poe had a very good reason
to believe she was correct. Although the coroner’s verdict meant that Poe’s
hands were tied, he had kept an unofficial file containing his findings, and uses
this period of self-isolation as an opportunity to explore whether Bradshaw’s
unique skill set can help resolve the case.
The third story, Dead Man’s Fingers,
is again set against the background of the catastrophic effect that
foot-and-mouth had on the rural community. Bradshaw and Poe have gone for a
‘stroll’ (a term that Poe abhors because it makes him sound old). When Poe’s
dog, Edgar, runs away, they follow him, and Bradshaw notices an anomaly in a wild
flower field, donated by a local farmer as a nature reserve, this leads them to
uncover a tragic secret that has been unsuspected for two decades.
The three stories are contemporary,
using as a background the covid-19 pandemic, but they also reach back into the
past as Bradshaw and Poe explore cold cases or crimes that had not been
suspected at the time. The investigations are tailored to show the contrasting
but collaborative strengths and skills of the two detectives and the
relationship between them is very engaging. The stories are enjoyable and provide
an excellent introduction to the novels featuring Tilly Bradshaw and Washington
Reviewer: Carol Westron
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. Winner of the CWA Gold Dagger for his book The Puppet Show. Mike lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne.
Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher. She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames. Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times. The Terminal Velocity of Cats the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.
http://carolwestron.blogspot.co.uk/ To read a review of Carol latest book This Game of Ghosts click on the title.