Published by Constable
Publication date – 24 January 2019
Source – review copy
A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless. When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of . . .
Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant, but socially awkward, civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.
As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive …
Someone is setting old men on fire, burning them alive after having mutilated their bodies. When Washington Poe’s name is found carved onto the body of one of the victims is he pulled back from a year long suspension. Teamed with civilian analyist Tilly Bradshaw, Poe must work out what the connection is between the victims and why the killer has drawn him into the game, before it is too late.
You would think that a book about a serial killer who is burning men wouldn’t be entertaining or funny, but in this instance you would be wrong. The story is littered with dark humour. There was one point in the book where I had to stop reading for a minute or two as a fit of the giggles overtook me.
There wasn’t a single character I didn’t like. There is Stephanie Flynn, who finds the roles reversed as she is now Poe’s boss. Nicholas, the Bishop, was wonderful, and worked so well with Poe and Tilly. Tilly is a wonderful character. Her social awkwardness allows her to see the world from a different angle, often with an unintentional humour. She brings out the good in Poe and in return becomes more aware of the nuances of the world. As for Poe he is acerbic, rash, driven and caring. His dark side becomes lighter when he addresses wrongs he sees need righting. Watching the relationship between Tilly and Poe develop was a joy to read.
I had worked out who the murderer was from quite early on in the novel. However this did not spoil my enjoyment and it was great to see how the clues were weaved into the story and how the motive for the murders was revealed.
I loved the setting of the book. Cumbria is a beautiful part of the world, stark and comforting in equal measure and it was easy to imagine the locations depicted in the book. The story, and the reasons behind the murder were emotive and moving, all the more so because it is sadly all too easy to imagine that these things could have really happened.
The Puppet Show grabbed me from the first page and maintained the pace throughout. The pace was constant and does not allow the reader’s attention to wander. The only thing I didn’t like about the book is the fact it ended.
A brilliant start to what I hope will be a long, enduring series. I can’t wait for the next book.