M.W. Craven - Black Summer

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. (Synopsis)


For this article, I’ve done something drastic. I haven’t done this before, but I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do. I’m going to tell you about a book I haven’t yet finished. My motivation for such inexcusable behavior is twofold. Firstly, if I wrote anything that would detract from the ending in this book I’d be devastated and you would be angry. Secondly, what I’m going to share isn’t the writing, the characters, or the plot (all perfect, by the way). I want to share how I’m feeling. Right now. Caught in the twists.

My heart is beating faster than it ought to. I’m reclined on a comfortable sofa. There’s food and drink within ten paces. I’m in no danger. Nevertheless, it beats. There’s a bead or two of perspiration. I’m anxious, because I’m worried about Washington Poe.

This concern for the man himself is managed expertly. From the very start, you realise he’s in trouble. As the net closes in, it’s the wonderful hardiness of Poe that makes the threat such an enjoyable experience. This combination of constant jeopardy and the Poe’s simple acceptance of the inevitable means you get to cling to the roll-bar as the story thunders downhill, constantly threatening to lose control and tip into a deathly roll.

And it’s this awesome emotional state I wanted to capture.

Sure, Tilly is brilliant and there’s something going on with Flynn. Of course, every supporting character is painted in full colour, not just hastily sketched in to hang a thread of story on. Yes, the Cumbrian landscape is one of the co-stars. Craven nails this stuff. I don’t know how – he just does… but there is something very special about the management of the atmosphere of this book.

If you haven’t read The Puppet Show, you need to start there as it’s the first book in the series. Once you’ve read it, nobody will stop you getting your hands on Black Summer.

Fenton
Steve Fenton was Editor in Chief for The Mag and also wrote for DV8 Magazine and Spill Magazine. He was often found in venues across the country alongside ace-photographer, Mark Holloway. Steve studied Psychology at OSC, and Anarchy in the UK: A History of Punk from 1976-1978 at the University of Reading.