|Little Brown Books|
2 June 2022
My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book
Detective Sergeant Washington Poe can count on one hand the number of friends he has. And he'd still have his thumb left. There's the insanely brilliant, guilelessly innocent civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw of course. He's known his beleaguered boss, Detective Inspector Stephanie Flynn for years as he has his nearest neighbour, full-time shepherd/part-time dog sitter, Victoria.
And then there's Estelle Doyle. It's true the caustic pathologist has never walked down the sunny side of the street but this time has she gone too far? Shot twice in the head, her father's murder appears to be an open and shut case. Estelle has firearms discharge residue on her hands, and, in a house surrounded by fresh snow, hers are the only footprints going in. Since her arrest she's only said three words: 'Tell Washington Poe.'
Meanwhile, a poisoner the press have dubbed the Botanist is sending high profile celebrities poems and pressed flowers. The killer seems to be able to walk through walls and, despite the advance notice he gives his victims, and regardless of the security measures the police take, he seems to be able to kill with impunity.
For a man who hates locked room mysteries, this is going to be the longest week of Washington Poe's life.
📖 My Review..
Just as DS Washington Poe can count on one hand the number of friends he has, so I can count on one hand the number of authors whose books I will read without a) seeing the blurb or b) seeing the cover - M. W. Craven is one such author and a new Poe and Tilly mystery is the highlight of my year. The Botanist, which has been on my book radar for several months, is now finally published so I can share my thoughts about book number five in the Poe and Tilly series of crime mysteries.
There are two cleverly constructed threads running through the story, namely that of the eponymous botanist who is seemingly picking off high profile celebrities, a perpetrator who carries out the crimes with such ingenuous methods of disposal that for once Poe is stumped as to how this modus operandi is being carried out. The second thread is rather more personal for Poe as it involves one of his closest friends, of whom we know he doesn't have many, so when pathologist, Estelle Doyle is arrested for murder, Poe is determined to prove her innocence.
The Botanist is one of the most complicated locked room thrillers I've read, darkly, suspenseful with more twists and turns than a Cumbrian country lane and yet thanks to the skillful manipulation of the narrative it's so easy to devour the pages in short, sharp bursts, rather like the chapters themselves which are sometime just a page or two long. The attention to detail is, as always, meticulous, combining science, technology, and the masterpiece that is Tilly Bradshaw, whose serious explanations of the unexplainable, and her joyous faux pas, form such a crucial part of the story.
Whilst this latest story forms an integral part of the series, it is perfectly possible to read the book as a standalone, but why deprive yourself of a superb crime series, start at the beginning and wallow in the dream team that is Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw and be taken into the minds of some of the darkest, fictional killers. The stories are not for the faint hearted but each are written with such talent and skillful attention to even the smallest detail that the pages turn themselves.
Each year the latest Poe and Tilly story makes it onto my reads of the year list - The Botanist is no exception. In fact, as I also say every year, this is my favourite, especially as, this year, my home town gets a little mention 😊
🍴Best read with.. a cup of Tilly's herbal tea and a sneaky, bacon butty, heavy on the sauce 😋
M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle. He joined the army at sixteen, leaving a decade later to complete a social work degree and spent seventeen years as a probation officer in Cumbria, rising to the rank of assistant chief officer. The first in the Washington Poe series, The Puppet Show, won the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger, has sold in numerous foreign territories and has been optioned for TV by Studio Lambert. M. W. Craven has been shortlisted for the Goldsboro Glass Bell Award and an Amazon Reader Award. He is also the author of the Avison Fluke novels, Born in a Burial Ground (shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger) and Body Breaker.
Twitter @MWCravenUK #TheBotanist #TeamPoe #TeamTilly