The Puppet Show (Washington Poe #1) by M W Craven

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5star

Call me a psychic! A five star psychic! I predicted that The Puppet Show was going to be brilliant, and I was bloody right! I knew it! I just knew it!

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It gave me those vibes, you know what I mean? You pick up or hear about a book, feeling all attracted to the cover. Come on, we ALL love a bit of sinister looking cover art don’t we? The synopsis gives you that ‘oooh, this could be juicy’ feeling. And it gets put right to the top of that enormous TBR, winking at you, beckoning you to pick it up. This one went straight to the top of mine and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

Much to my delight there’s murder and fire and stone circles and a copper who’s got the DRIEST sense of humour ever. And there’s a REALLY COOL CHICK too, who wears band tees and happens to be a mathematical genius. I’d also like to mention that there’s a Spaniel called Edgar.

That gives you a basic rambling idea of the two main characters, but I’m going to cast my mind back to my last read for a moment, Murder at the Mill (I’ll call it MATM for short) by M B Shaw. And for those of you who haven’t read my review yet, you may do so HERE if you so desire. Why am I mentioning my previous read I hear you cry?! Particularly in another book review as well! Shocking! Let me explain.

Similies. Descriptions. Creative writing in general. It has to be good. Clever. Funny. Emotional. Flowy. I could go on. I’m a tough reader to please. MATM is a perfect example of how NOT to do it. In contrast, The Puppet Show is a perfect example of how it SHOULD be done. It’s creative, witty, well planned and brilliantly researched. Craven’s similes are CLASS. After my last read I was so relieved that this author can write. He can write gooooood.

‘The chief constable walked like a man badly in need of a stool softener.’

‘He had a drinker’s nose and his upturned chin resembled a jester’s boot.’

If there’s one thing I enjoy when I’m reading, it has to be when characters’ personalities shine through and they become so real.

‘Poe pointed at the BPhil after Francis Sharples’s name and asked, ‘You know what that means, Tilly? ‘Bachelor of Philosophy, Poe.’ Poe shook his head. ‘It means he’s a cock.’

Dry, British humour always gets a thumbs up from me, particularly if there’s some cracking insults in the mix.

The Puppet Show is one hell of a ride, I read it in just under two weeks but I wanted to read it in one sitting. Life got right in the way, and I found myself drifting off thinking about it when I should of been concentrating on work. I really wanted to cancel a family occasion as well because I just wanted to read. I love how a great book can make me feel so unsociable and selfish.

I’ve always been a fan of crime fiction, especially when it’s about a serial killer, my first being Silence of the Lambs twenty-odd years ago. I have also recently discovered Robert Bryndza and J D Barker for new reading in this genre. M W Craven is now up there for me as a go-to author as I just love the Britishness he injects into his story.

I cannot fault The Puppet Show in any way, I highly recommend it. It is pretty graphic in places and there’s a bit of sweary dialogue, but it all fits a treat. For a debut novel, this is exciting and gripping from start to finish. And I’m pleased to say that the author has just finished #2 and is writing #3. YESSSSSS! GET IN THERE! I will undoubtedly read the next instalment of Poe and Bradshaw solving gruesome murders in their quirky and entertaining way.

Many thanks to Netgalley, Little, Brown Book Group UK and M.W. Craven for an advanced copy of this awesome book in exchange for an honest review. The pleasure was all mine.

 

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Murder at the Mill by M B Shaw

Murder at The Mill by M.B. Shaw

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My rating: 2 of 5 stars

‘She was a riot of contradictions: quiet but pushy, reserved but passionate, observant yet refreshingly slow to judge.’

Reviewing Murder at the Mill is also going to be a ‘riot of contradictions’ because I’ve gone from rating it a one star, ‘this sucks’ read to a near on four star ‘ooooh I need some answers page-turner’ read.

It was also a riot of Post-It notes, as you can see here!

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I have never felt so conflicted about rating a book as this one, I shall try my upmost to review this honestly and fairly without too much snark.

So, Murder at the Mill is a cosy mystery set in Hampshire, England, ‘perfect for fans of Midsomer Murder and Agatha Christie’. Apparently.

To try and fathom out my star rating, I’m going to have to see how this review pans out, as I still haven’t decided my final decision even at this point.

The plot itself deserves a solid 3 stars, possibly even 3.5 because the ‘whodunnit’ element was really very good. This, along with characters whose closet skeletons were being discovered left, right and centre was what kept me going.

The characters, in which there were many, all helped to build an intriguing mystery with their dodgy pasts and poisonous personas. A 3 star rating for sure here is deserving as I particularly liked Billy, the black sheep of the family. He was portrayed well in a sinister and menacing way. The main protagonist, Iris Grey was my least favourite, her quirkiness and terrible taste in clothes became rather tiresome as the story progressed.

The writing style. Oh god, this is where it gets awkward.

SIMILES. SIMILES. SIMILES. SIMILES. SIMILES. SIMILES.

I am so DONE with the countless, terrible, TERRIBLE similes in this book.

…’the spindly tree branches swayed and shivered pathetically in the wind like the starved limbs of concentration camp prisoners pleading for escape.’ (WHAT? WHY? Editor, why? Awful. Truly awful.)

…’tore at the wrapping on his gift like a starving child clawing at a bag of rice.’ (No. Just no.)

And what’s with all these animals? After the first two dozen, I was destined for eye-rolling moments throughout.

…’like a smug cockerel.’ (Smug! Whaaat?!)

…’like a wounded fox.’

…’listening to the satisfying crack as they shattered beyond repair like the bones of tiny mice.’

…’as excited as two piglets on speed.’ (What the..?! 😂)

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…’staggering around like a newborn fawn.’

…’impale them like lambs on a spit.’

…’attached himself like a louche limpet…’

I could go on, it gets worse. Describing someone’s anger pouring out …’like pus from a lanced boil’  was the final straw really. It was pretty damn dire.

Ok, maybe there’s a bit of snark here, but I just can’t help myself! Tell me, Ms Shaw, were you sponsored by all those brands you name-dropped throughout your book? Tesco, Smarties, Heinz, Next, H&M, Zara, Cath Kidston, blah, blah, blah. So much was described based on the brand alone, and it irritated the hell out of me.

It’s also funny how so many different characters used the term ‘whatnot’ in their conversations. Must be a Hampshire village thing.

By now, you can probably tell why I’m still debating about this books star rating. My main problem is I really enjoyed the story, it hooked me in and I was overall impressed by the final revelations and conclusion. There was some pretty good red herrings in there too. But for me to rate a book above 3 stars, the writing style has to satisfy me. Towards the end I started to laugh and groan at some of the descriptive text and it took away my enjoyment and marred the seriousness of the story.

After all is said and done, I’ve decided, I’m giving Murder at the Mill 2 stars. And strangely, I would indeed read another cosy mystery about Iris Grey and her irksome sleuthing. Even if it was just to spot all the awful, and sometimes unintentionally comical similes that are scattered ‘like dandruff on one’s shoulders’ throughout the book.

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Thank you to the author, the publisher Orion Books and Goodreads for hosting a giveaway for which I was lucky enough to win!

View all my reviews