Source: Review copy
Publication: 4th June 2020 from Little Brown
It’s Christmas and a serial killer is leaving displayed body parts all over Cumbria. A strange message is left at each scene: #BSC6
Called in to investigate, the National Crime Agency’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are faced with a case that makes no sense. Why were some victims anaesthetized, while others died in appalling agony? Why is their only suspect denying what they can irrefutably prove but admitting to things they weren’t even aware of? And why did the victims all take the same two weeks off work three years earlier?
And when a disgraced FBI agent gets in touch things take an even darker turn. Because she doesn’t think Poe is dealing with a serial killer at all; she thinks he’s dealing with someone far, far worse – a man who calls himself the Curator.
And nothing will ever be the same again . . .
If crack cocaine were a book, it would be The Curator. Immensely anticipated, even better when it arrives and as soon as you have devoured it, you know you’re going to have to have more. Honestly I got a major book high from reading this. It’s addictive, adrenaline raising, delicious, exciting stuff.
Right from the off there’s a killer scene that hooks you in- yes I do mean Poe at a baby shower – and then that hook takes hold in your gut and carries you along, twisting, feinting and leaving you completely wiped out. We start with what turns out to be three sets of unidentifiable body parts and work from there.
Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are called in when only clue to what might be happening is the hashtag #BSC6 left at the scene of each discovery. DI Flynn is seriously, ankle swellingly, on the cusp of giving birth but nothing is going to stop her being involved in this case.
The three victims do not appear to have anything in common and Poe can’t grasp what the motive might be or what the hashtag means. Outstanding work by the brilliant, on the spectrum, Tilly Bradshaw gives them some leads but is only when Poe receives a phone call from a disgraced FBI agent that he starts to consider that he and Tilly may have been led up the garden path.
I love this pairing so much. Poe, dark, determined, brusque to the point of studied rudeness and Tilly, loyal, literal, super-intelligent with a stubborn streak and in this book, displaying a courage that is awesome. Tilly has developed so much as a character that it’s hard to imagine her as she was back in the Puppet Show; now her talents have been recognised by the NCA and she has a team of her own. But she will always be first and foremost loyal to Poe and we love her all the more for it. In his own way, Poe repays that loyalty and so we have one of the best pairings in contemporary crime fiction.
Craven has a real sense of place too. His books are suffused with the isolation of the Cumbrian landscape and the atmosphere of bleakness and wildness that is the island he visits adds to the darkness. What makes it all work, apart from the immaculate plotting, (the deviousness of his plotting structure is profound) and the gory bits that add to the full horror sequences is the wonderful juxtaposition of light and shade that runs through the whole book.
The humour elevates the reading experience and allows us time to breathe as we appreciate what a remarkable duo Poe and Bradshaw really are.
Nothing, though, is going to let you guess where this plot is headed. As the FBI agent tells Poe, ‘whenever you think you have a handle on this case, you’ll know the Curator has you right where he wants you.’
M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle, running away to join the army at the tender age of sixteen. He spent the next ten years travelling the world having fun, leaving in 1995 to complete a degree in social work with specialisms in criminology and substance misuse. Thirty-one years after leaving Cumbria, he returned to take up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, eventually working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later he took the plunge, accepted redundancy and became a full-time author. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals . . .M. W. Craven is married and lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne. When he isn’t out with his springer spaniel, or talking nonsense in the pub, he can be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country.