Black Summer by M W Craven. Good morning! Today I'm on another blog tour, for a crime novel that I absolutely love, Black Summer by M W Craven.
After The Puppet Show, a new storm is coming . . . Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath . . . He's currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.
So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.
Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?
And then Elizabeth goes missing again - and all paths of investigation lead back to Poe.
Black Summer is the second of M W Craven's Washington Poe novels, following The Puppet Show. Like the first novel, Black Summer is mostly set across the Lake District, a part of the country I know well, and it's great to see familiar settings in the novel.
An important element of this novel is cooking, particularly the high-end Michelin starred type, and right from the opening section that high pressure environment is shown to have its fair share of darkness as we're talked through the preparation of Ortolan Buntings. This was pretty grim, though I have read about it before so I was prepared for what was coming. Animal lovers, beware! Luckily the only Ortolan Bunting I've seen was alive and well and singing on a rock in Cyprus. Overall I really enjoyed the presentation of the kitchen/restaurant, and its contrast to Poe's more down-to-earth existence. It did work well to set the macabre mood of the novel, and things only get darker.
The central mystery is completely enthralling. I love the set up, the suggestion that maybe Poe got things wrong in the past. Past mistakes haunting a detective is such a powerful thing and it's played very well here. Then as things become clearer, I was still left struggling to figure out how it was all done. Like Poe, I really felt like the pieces were there for me to solve, I just couldn't quite get it. Then everything finally fell into place with a very satisfying reveal.
Washington Poe continues to be a deep, complex character. This novel gives some fascinating insight into his past and his family that only gives him more complexity. Tilly turns up again as the perfect foil to him. The two of them are so contrasted, and yet fit together so well, that every scene between the two of them is an absolute joy. I'm loving watching Tilly grow and develop as a person, and how she and Poe influence each other.
The villain of the story is definitely one that'll stick with me. He's in the background for most of the novel, which just makes him feel even creepier and more of a threat, but I really loved the technique of knowing who he is from the start. Black Summer isn't a "whodunnit" but focuses more on the how the bloody hell did they do it, and will they get away with it? This works brilliantly.
Black Summer is dark, grisly and macabre, in all the best ways.
A five-moon read, I can't wait for book three, The Curator!