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Monday, 14 June 2021

‘Dead Ground’ by M. W. Craven.

Published by Constable,
3 June 2021.
ISBN 978-1-47213-197-3 (HB)

D S Washington Poe is a member of the National Crime Agency’s Serious Crime Analysis Section, and he is in court – but, for once, it’s personal as he is has been threatened with eviction from his home.  His friend and colleague, Tilly Bradshaw, has been working on his defence and all is going to plan, when proceedings are called to a halt by the arrival of two men.  Within minutes the court is empty and Poe and Tilly, driven by one of the men, are on their way to who knows where.  Actually, they have been seconded to MI5 to investigate a murder in a ‘pop-up’ brothel in Carlisle.  It looks like a straightforward murder, not the sort of case the SCAS usually handles, but an international trade summit is taking place and the security implications are deadly serious.  To emphasise the seriousness, Poe and Tilly have two colleagues, Hannah Finch, representing American interests at the summit and also a member of MI5 and FBI Agent Melody Lee.

The victim turns out to be an ex-serviceman running a helicopter taxi service flying delegates to and from the summit.  As Poe and Tilly delve deeper into the case, they are faced with some odd questions:  despite having been heavily vetted for a high-profile job, why does nothing about the victim’s background check out?  Why was a small ornament left at the murder scene and why did Hannah Finch remove it?  Where do five men in James Bond masks fit in?

This is the fourth in the Poe and Tilly series and the duo have lost none of their sparkle – Tilly’s particular talents and social awkwardness and Poe’s intelligence, determination and humour work well together, ensuring that their relationship continues to be interesting.  The other characters are well-written and add their own particular glosses to the story.  The plot is clever and entertaining and maintains the interest and tension.  It moves backwards and forwards in time and from country to country, and the author continues to surprise to the final pages.  It holds the interest and will please existing fans and new readers alike!

Reviewer: Jo Hesslewood

Other books by this author:  Washington Poe series:  The Puppet Show, Black Summer, The Curator, Cut Short.  DI Avison Fluke series:  Born in a Burial Gown, Body Breaker, Assume Nothing, Believe Nobody, Challenge Everything

M. W. Craven  was born in Cumbria in 1968 but grew up in the North East. He trained for two years as an armourer before spending the next ten being paid to travel the world and drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol. In 1995, sick of writing postcards and having fun, he decided it might be time to do something a bit more sensible. And it doesn't get more sensible than doing a law degree. So, he did Social Work instead. Two years later he started working in Cumbria as a probation officer. Sixteen years, and a few promotions, later he is still there, although as a crime writer, he now has different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals. In between joining the army and securing a publishing deal, Mike found time to have a pet crocodile, survive cancer, get married, and buy a springer spaniel named Bracken.
Mike's first Washington Poe novel The Pupped Show, won the Gold Dagger for best novel in 2019. Now a Sunday Times bestseller. There are now four books in the series. A fifth book is scheduled for publication in 2022.  
Mike lives in Carlisle. He is a member of the Crime Writers' Association, the International Thriller Writers' Association, and the Mystery People Group.

Jo Hesslewood.  Crime fiction has been my favourite reading material since as a teenager I first spotted Agatha Christie on the library bookshelves.  For twenty-five years the commute to and from London provided plenty of reading time.  I am fortunate to live in Cambridge, where my local crime fiction book club, Crimecrackers, meets at Heffers Bookshop .  I enjoy attending crime fiction events and currently organise events for the Margery Allingham Society.

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