Cover Image: CWA Dagger Award - Black Summer

CWA Dagger Award - Black Summer

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Member Reviews

Having absolutely loved The Puppet Show, the first book in the Washington Poe series, I wondered how M.W. Craven could possibly write a book good enough to follow it.  Well he's only gone and done it with Black Summer; a book that is as unputdownable as it is unforgettable, but more about that unforgettable part later.

I have to admit to being slightly disappointed that my favourite analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, didn't feature from the start but it's more realistic and in-keeping with Poe's solitary characteristics not to have them joined at the hip.  The compelling plot more than made up for Tilly's initial absence and what a plot it is.  It had me on the edge of my seat, scratching my head and admittedly holding back a bit of vomit at times.  It's so very clever and highly original that it keeps the reader on their toes and I decided to enjoy the ride and save the inevitable headache from trying to second guess the unguessable.

I don't want to give away any spoilers but I just have to mention the unforgettable part of the book for me.  It's all down to M.W. Craven's brilliantly vivid and descriptive writing and I now have my own proof that 'the book was better'.  The story in Black Summer revolves around a famous chef and there's a particular dish that is served to Poe which had my stomach heaving.  I paused to google it and found that the same dish had been featured in the TV show Billions.  Now I've seen and enjoyed every episode of Billions but could only vaguely remember the dish in question when I saw images from the episode.  M.W. Craven's writing is so exquisitely evocative that reading about something made so much more of an impression than seeing it on the screen.  Bravo Mr. Craven!

Black Summer is an outstanding follow up to The Puppet Show and it would read very well as a standalone too.  With a breathtakingly brilliant plot and characters that are second to none, Black Summer is an unmissable book.  Scooping a full house of stars, this is a very highly recommended book.

I chose to read an ARC in ebook format and then bought a paperback for my M.W. Craven collection; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.
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Black Summer is #2 in the Washington Poe series, but can also be read as a stand-alone.

In a small village in Cumbria, Police Officer Alsop holds a monthly surgery in the local library. Here village residents can voice their concerns and worries they have. 

At one of these sessions a young woman arrives, all dishevelled and tells him she had been kidnapped 6 years ago and has just managed to escape.

DS Poe is called back from London to help with the investigation, as he had been involved in the original case. Is this woman Elizabeth who had disappeared 6 years ago? DNA says it is, but Poe has doubts…...had he put an innocent man behind bars?

Black Summer is an utterly compelling crime thriller. Poe and Tilly are great characters and the clever, twisty plot keeps you on tenterhooks. A fantastic, original and gripping read.

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for an eARC of Black Summer.
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Unfortunately I didn't start the series at book 1, but I really think Black Summer can be read nicely without any hassles as a standalone.  I have no words to really do this book justice.  I just couldn't stop reading it, nothing is as it seems from the start, full of many twists and turns until the very end.  This book is highly recommended, really just do it! 
TB
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I adored the first book in this series The Puppet Show –  and so I was quietly confident I would enjoy Black Summer just as much.. but I didn’t … I actually enjoyed it MORE… as Simon Cowell might say.. I didn’t like it… I LOVED it!

Black Summer follows on from The Puppet Show and whilst it can be read as a standalone, I personally always recommend starting a series at book 1 and therefore you get to know and understand the main characters, their back stories and follow their journeys through each book.

In this book we once again meet up with Tilly Bradshaw and Washington Poe and this time they are faced with a complex case that could put Poe in prison.  It’s a fast paced cat and mouse game which puts these two fabulous characters in a race against time to solve the case and stop anyone else from being killed or Poe being arrested.

The relationship between these two characters is absolutely FABULOUS, the banter, the mutual understanding and respect, their loyalty to each other is a joy to read about.  Tilly Bradshaw is a breath of fresh air, a socially awkward computer geek who is often unintentionally tactless in her own unique and observational way but brings a much needed injection of humour to this dark and disturbing series.

There’s not much I want to add to this review, except READ IT and if you haven’t read book 1 – READ THAT NOW.

Black Summer is a clever, witty, compelling, complex, action packed crime thriller which will keep the readers on their toes, turning those pages and being totally entertained from the opening paragraph to the final sentence.  LOVED IT.
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I'm really enjoying this series set in rural Cumbria & the characters involved. This time we have a chef that was imprisoned for murdering his daughter but several years later here she is claiming to have been held captive somewhere before mysteriously disappearing again. All signs start pointing to Poe having killed her for real this time. 

I love all the characters in the series especially Tilly and her growing friendship with Poe. Her intellect is astounding especially when trying to prove Poe's innocence. It works well as a stand alone but reading in sequence really makes the read that much better as you can see how characters grow. There are so many twists and turns and it's gripping right from the beginning. The ending shows us there is so much more to come. 

Absolutely loved it. Book 3 was released last month (June 2020) so I'm going to be picking that up shortly.
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Absolutely enjoyed from start to finish, u didn't want the book to end. Highly recommended, if you like books that keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat.
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4.5 stars
Setting the scene with an opening chapter that pulls you straight in to the story hook line and sinker I felt this book was going to be a good one and it did not disappoint.
The book is based around the reappearance of a girl six years after she was supposedly murdered. Her Father is in prison serving time for the crime that he obviously now didn't commit and Washington Poe was the one who put him behind bars and now he is on a mission with his side kick Tilly Bradshaw to prove what happened. This made for a action packed, dark, grisly, gruesome tale with some heart warming moments of humour between Poe and Tilly.
The characterisation was really good drawing me in as the reader to really feel for them as they had their ups and downs.
This author cleverly crafts a riveting tale with the right amount of tension to keep you totally captivated. One of the best police procedural books I have read.
My thanks go to the author, publisher and Netgalley in providing this arc for a honest review.
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Another amazing book in the series . I just love the characters in these book . Can’t wait till number 3 . Another easy 5 stars
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I read this book a while ago and thought I had already posted the review. 
LOVED LOVED LOVED this book. 
This is the first book I have ever read that made me feel queasy and want to turn vegetarian, I would love to know where M.W.Craven gets his ideas. 
I am a massive fan of Poe and Tilly and i was over the moon a second book was written and it didn't disappoint. Another fantastic story that kept me hooked. 
A must read for everyone! 
☆☆☆☆☆+ for me
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I actually feel a little bereft after finishing this. 

Like the previous book of Poe’s adventures this too had me hooked from the outset. 

Between the ongoing storyline of the main characters and the many twists and turns, this had me enthralled. 

Thoroughly recommended.
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The Puppet Show was my favourite read of 2019 so I was extremely eager to get my hands on the 2nd book. Unfortunately,  I feel like this book never got started (please don't hate me!)

I love the connection that Poe and Tilly have in this book, I feel like they bring each other out of their shells. I enjoyed the investigation side of the story, it just didnt have me hooked like the first book.
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The opening chapter of this book is particularly gruesome but also quite a genius move. It sets up the tone of the story perfectly and re-introduces us back to Washington Poe. Oh I have missed him! It is a few chapters until we are back with Tilly Bradshaw but it is worth the wait.

In The Puppet Show, Tilly was the unsung hero and it is brilliant to be back with her again. Still awkward but decidedly more confident, she even has her own Scooby Gang! She is a breath of fresh air as she once again comes to the rescue of Poe as a case from his past comes back to haunt him. When Poe was behind the life sentence of famous chef Jared Keaton for the murder of his daughter Elizabeth, it appeared to be an open and shut case. So when Elizabeth walks into a police station and claims she has been held captive for a number of years, a can of worms is opened and Poe is at the forefront of it all. He immediately begins to doubt himselfand everything that he believed in. How could he be so wrong? Is there something deeper going on? When Elizabeth once again disappears, Poe senses he is being set up for a genius crime.

The entire storyline is a brilliant cat and mouse chase. The seemingly confident Jared Keaton holds all the cards and we really do begin to wonder if Poe has indeed got it wrong Keaton always appears to have an answer. As ever though, Poe has his support network of the genius Tilly who is determined to help Poe. But even when she struggles to find any evidence to clear Poe, you do begin to almost worry and I definitely felt myself tense up as I got more involved and invested in the plot.

This is such a brilliant follow up to The Puppet Show and even better if that is possible! Like other reviews I have read, I just couldn’t quite figure out how things had been done and this made me eager to keep reading.  How can someone we alive and dead at the same time? Indeed….

I’ll leave that for you to figure out!

Highly recommended from me.
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I was really looking forward to reading Black Summer after loving The Puppet Show, book one in this series and I was not disappointed.

Poe is up against Jared Keaton, a chef who was convicted of killing his own daughter. However, said daughter has now just turned up alive and well and all eyes are on Poe Has Poe made a mistake? Did he convict the wrong man? Poe is totally baffled as all roads appear to lead to a wrongful conviction. What makes these books for me apart from the brilliant storytelling are the beautifully drawn characters. Tilly and Poe's working relationship is especially endearing as are Poe and the dog!!

Black Summer is a brilliant, entertaining novel and follows on nicely from book one. Can't wait to meet Tilly and Poe again. Highly recommend.
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I absolutely loved the first book in this series The Puppet Show so I was a little nervous heading into this, however it didn't disappoint! I love the working relationship between Poe and Tilly, they definitely make me more invested in the case.
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I love Tilly Bradshaw. She may not be a people person but her brain is amazing! Poe texts her, 13 hours later she’s banging on his door in the deepest darkest depths of Cumbria, cases handed over and gadgets galore. She is amazing. She is fast becoming one of my personal favourite characters! “Poe ate testicles” 😂😂

The loveable Washington Poe has got himself in a pickle. He got a smarmy chef convicted for murder but what’s this, the murder victim has returned from the dead, WHAT THE HELL?!? Suddenly it’s a race against the Cumbrian police headed up by a DCI who doesn’t seem to like our Poe and is hell bent of getting him behind bars by any which way!

And this smarmy chef, Keaton…he made my skin crawl!!!! Each time he appears on the page, I moved my kindle slightly further away from my face. He’s just one of those characters who you instantly dislike

Now Mr Craven makes me smile. His little quips are may seem like throw away comments or characters every so often he’ll throw in something to show his dark and warped sense of humour.

Black Summer is a twisted tale, Craven has upped his writing game with this second book in the series. The relationship between Poe and Tilly has taken on a new level and I personally loved it. CAN NOT WAIT FOR THE CURATOR!!!!!
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i literally  couldn't put it down   my favourite crime book of 2019 .Highly recommend  you read both M.W. Craven's books you will not regret it .
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Oh my word, where the heck do I begin with this story. Honestly I am totally lost for words and I’ll apologise to anyone who knows me because after I read The Puppet Show (Book 1) I never shut up about it, my daughter read it and even my 81 year granny-in-law read it because I raved about it so much and I’m doing the same with Black Summer. It’s soooooo good.

It’s great to be back with Poe and Tilly, they’re like a special drop of medicine. No matter what kind of situation they find themselves in, the chemistry these two have will bring a smile to anyone’s face. Poe is quite charming, he’s determined but he doesn’t always like to play by the rules and Tilly is extremely clever, very socially awkward and doesn’t have any filter when it comes to sharing personal information but they work so well together and are a complete joy to read about.

In Black Summer Poe and Tilly find themselves with a very difficult case on their hands. When Elizabeth Keaton vanished, Jared Keaton her father was sentenced to life for her murder with the help of Poe’s testimony. Now Elizabeth has materialised as if from nowhere throwing a complete spanner in the works. Poe was convinced Jared killed his daughter but how can she be alive and dead at the same time and to make matters worse, Elizabeth goes missing again.

I honestly think I spent maybe 3/4 of this book with my mouth hanging open, especially at the beginning of the book. What a way to open, I’ll not say anymore but oh boy. I’m not sure how Mr Craven comes up with these plots, he maybe has a warped mind or maybe he is just very very clever but wow, I salute him. There isn’t a page where I wasn’t totally invested in the story and the characters and I really couldn’t see where this story was taking me. Each twist and turn was a surprise.

I could probably ramble on and on telling you how good Black Summer is so I’ll just let you find out for yourselves, obviously after you’ve read The Puppet Show if you haven’t already and if you haven’t, then why not? It’s super good too.

Black Summer could be read as a stand-alone but I definitely recommend The Puppet Show first, not only is it a cracker too but it gives you a real feel for the characters and they are just brilliant.

So to everyone I know and buy Christmas presents for, guess what you’re getting?
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I’ve just finished Black Summer and needed to spend just a little time to consider this novel to try and gather my thoughts into some semblance of order. It’s beyond hope that my review will do justice to the sheer brilliance of this second novel in the Washington Poe series and to explain the sheer complexity of this intricate plot will only give the game away and that would be an absolute disaster.

Poe is such a great character, he’s belligerent, obstructive, supremely flawed as only great fictional detectives are allowed to be, and yet, when he teams up with Tilly Bradshaw, literary magic happens, right there on the page. And then, of course there’s Tilly herself, kooky, quirky and filled with a zealous fervour to protect Poe, and let’s face, Poe definitely need protecting, usually from himself, but more often from someone who seems hellbent on bringing him down, and in Black Summer there really is someone who is determined to destroy Poe, good style!

I never thought it would be a joy to read about the most heinous of crimes, but the author makes it an absolute delight to turn the page, crossing the high Cumbrian fells with Poe, and his energetic springer spaniel, Edgar, is so realistic that you smell the turf, feel the pull of the wind and find yourself turning your battered Barbour against the slant of the rain.

Black Summer is a very, very clever crime thriller by an author who knows how to pull the reader into a complex criminal investigation. It has all the trademark twists and turns which we have come to expect with a few real surprises thrown in for good measure. I started the story on one of those dank and cold afternoons which are so typical in the north of England, where it's going dark by 2:30 pm, and didn't look up except to make restorative cups of tea until I had finished the story in one sitting.

I'm already looking forward to book #3
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The Puppet Show saw Washington Poe on the trail of the terrifying Immolation Man but in Black Summer the last major case he worked on in Cumbria before moving south comes back to haunt him and it turns out to be just as horrific. Six years ago he was responsible for putting celebrity chef, Jared Keaton behind bars for the murder of his daughter. Elizabeth Keaton's body was never discovered but the forensic evidence and Keaton's refusal to explain the discrepancies in his version of events on the night she was killed, resulted in him being found guilty of her murder. Poe was able to see the psychopath behind the charismatic television personality with legions of fans and slept well the night he was convicted. He is understandably stunned when he is summoned back to Cumbria and informed that three days previously, Elizabeth Keaton walked into Alston Library. DNA tests seem to prove she is telling the truth which means Poe must have made the worst mistake of his career and with the shadow of doubt cast upon him, his career and reputation are in jeopardy.
This is an incredibly complex case but despite the singular nature of it; is Elizabeth Keaton the human equivalent of Schrödinger's Cat - both dead and alive? - the whole novel feels grounded in reality thanks to M.W.Craven's ability to capture the very essence of a person, place or scene. The first chapter of the book is actually set towards the end of the investigation and features a gourmet dining scene which is described with the same gruesome attention to detail as if it were a sickening crime. Just this small moment gives a real insight into the two men involved and although the actual consumption of the dish is inconsequential to the case, it is repulsive and absolutely chilling. It's not just this scene which is so vividly realised; throughout the book there are equally astutely observed descriptive passages. At one point Poe and Bradshaw visit a pub and it sounds exactly like the sort of establishment my dad was talking about when he warned us off going to pubs with flat roofs,
'It was the type of place that lowered the average life expectancy of the whole community.'
Not everywhere is as grim, of course, the immersive sense of place M.W. Craven creates is perhaps at its best when he writes about the stark, dangerous beauty of Poe's beloved Shap Fell. 
The characters are just as skillfully brought to life, with Washington Poe proving to be one of crime fiction's most memorable protagonists. Like many of the best detectives, he is a maverick with a troubled personal life, a healthy disrespect for authority and a personality which definitely tends towards misandry. However, through his interactions with others - most notably Tilly and D.I. Flynn, we see a principled, honest man who cares deeply about his friends. It's notable too, that he is surrounded by women and is never threatened by their strength. 
Tilly Bradshaw is as wonderful as ever and even though Black Summer can be enjoyed as a standalone, I would strongly recommend reading The Puppet Show first, as not only is it a superb book, it's also a delight to see how she has grown in confidence over the course of the series. I loved that she is now in charge of her own team of analysts who call themselves the Scooby gang and although everybody else calls them the Mole People, it's clear that they are viewed with increasing respect.
She still marches to the beat of her own drum and much of the humour in the book comes from her interjections but this time around, her self-awareness has improved and there are moments where she reveals a more knowing wit too. The endearing closeness between Poe and Tilly adds much needed warmth to a novel which features the worst of humanity and though an unlikely friendship, theirs is one which plainly means they are prepared to do anything for one another.
The excellent characterisation obviously extends beyond the two main protagonists and even those who have only a small part to play are absolutely real. I particularly enjoyed the description of one woman, Poe encounters as looking, 'like the type of woman who smiled at roadkill.'
I've purposely not mentioned much about the plot as I don't want to give anything away, suffice to say that this is another dark and fiendishly twisted story with some disturbingly visceral scenes. This is an emotional case and yet some of the horrific acts are necessarily described with a matter-of-fact bluntness which underlines the often cold, brutal nature of crime and the subsequent investigation. Oddly enough, it was a less bloody scene which really played on my mind and gave me bad dreams but unfortunately I can't say any more than that! It is an indication, however, of just how much Black Summer got under my skin. It's one of the few books I've read twice this year and I enjoyed it just as much second time around.
The Puppet Show deservedly won the CWA Gold Dagger Award and after all its acclaim, it must have felt a little like releasing a second album when it came to publishing the sequel. However, the return of Washington and Tilly is another triumph and having a case which turns out to be so personally important to Poe is a masterstroke. Black Summer is irresistible; a twisted and nightmare-inducing thriller. I loved it!
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Where do I Start? This highly anticipated and much longed-for sequel to The Puppet Show is all we hoped for and more - just as intense and twisty. I am a huge fan of Craven's writing and the story alone is sheer brilliance - but you get the added ingredients of Washington Poe and Matilda Bradshaw d they for me, utterly make these books and Black Summer carries their tale alone beautifully. Their friendship is boundless and despite their obvious differences, they work so well together - as partners in fighting crime and as friends.

Tilly's total lack of tact and awareness of socially acceptable boundaries makes her the South to Poe's North - his common sense and astute experience of reading situations and people's behavior make up for anything lacking on Tilly's behalf that her intellect and computing skills counldnt solve. Her IQ alone is off the scale and there isn't a question she couldn't answer........

Except maybe - How can someone be dead and alive at the same time?

We find Washington Poe, mud smeared and on the verge of being arrested. Reverse back two weeks to follow the story of how this has all occurred.

Six years ago Elizabeth Keaton went missing, presumed abducted and murdered, considering the amount of blood found forensically, in the kitchen of her celebrity chef father Jared Keaton's restaurant Bullace and Sloe was discovered. Keaton was imprisoned for her death, despite her body never being found.

Six years ago, Washington Poe had secured the conviction of now what appeared to be an innocent man.

Six Years ago, Keaton was imprisoned for her death, despite her body never being found.

Then from nowhere, Elizabeth walks into the monthly police clinic in the tiny rural village of Alston in Cumbria. She claims to have been held hostage for the past six years but struggles to describe her kidnapper and despite her obvious emaciated and filthy state of attire, due to having walked for 4 days across the Cumbrian hills to find human contact, a reluctance to be examined medically does make sense after such an ordeal but also makes the situation seem even odder.

Poe is instantly under pressure to find where she's been held, find out whats happened to her and also to apologise to Jared Keaton whos already requesting to see Poe. Poe's in no rush to do one of these things, and yet he cant ask Elizabeth anything, as she seems to have gone missing, again.

Poe calls on the one person he can rely upon, Tilly Bradshaw. His colleague and best friend, after Edgar his beloved Springer Spaniel of course.

Poe and Tilly go on the hunt for Elizabeth, starting from scratch, retracing the crime scene, speaking to old contacts and find new ones and revealing new information, and thats when they find the missing piece of the jigsaw they need.

Old colleagues come through again too, DI Stephanie Flynn and DC Andrew Rigg help Poe and Tilly out, I'm really hoping DCI Wardle suffers a terrible incapacitating fall in The Curator - Craven's next installment. When I hope to see some more of the new character Victoria Hume and more Stella Doyle too, please Mike.

Quite simply - M.W. Craven has the mind of a genius - he must have, to not only have created such a dream team with Poe and Tilly but to engross the reader in such a manner that we can not put the book down. Well, I know I couldn't. Black Summer is an enthralling, gripping and strongly compelling piece of writing that will keep the reader glued until the bitter end. Its sure to grab the attention of new fans worldwide and keep the current ones very happy too.

Luckily, in the paperback version of Black Summer - holds Chapter 1 from book 3 - The Curator, and not that I am wishing time away, but I honestly can not wait for what Craven has planned next for Poe & Tilly.
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