“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 . . .”
“It was the night before Christmas and all wasn’t well.”
It’s Christmas time and Poe and co. are faced with a mysterious killer leaving severed fingers and the elusive message #BSC6 at random places.
The Curator sees the return of beloved characters and the introduction of new ones. Beyond Poe and Tilly, we have DI Stephanie Flynn and the brilliant Estelle Doyle – and the show stealing spaniel Edgar – as well as new characters DS Jo Nightingale and Melody Lee.
The thing that makes Craven’s series different from the rest, is this cast of characters. The dynamic between Poe and Tilly – their friendship – is heart touching and demands appreciation in every instalment of this series to date. Craven has nurtured Poe and Tilly so much that they feel like they are real people rather than fictional characters, and this also contributes to the story and other characters feeling true too. Something worthy of note about The Curator was, for the most part, I felt like we finally get to see Poe work more as a team player, which I really liked.
Craven utilised setting well in this instalment; we have Cumbrian landscape covered in blizzards and snow, grey skies, and an isolated island with perilous sea. I found this illustrated so well it was easily imaginable (and very contrary to reading the book on a hot summer’s day, I may add!)
The Curator’s story was a bit like a rollercoaster for me. The beginning was engaging, the middle was sluggish and then the ending was explosive. I hate to say this, but I didn’t find The Curator’s early case developments to have as much of a magnetic pull on me as a reader. I didn’t find the discoveries or data used to build the case easily engaging – when compared to the evidence and hypothesising in Black Summer and The Puppet Show.
The last 70%ish was taut on my nerves. I don’t think a book has ever caused me to faint, but I’m telling you, it was definitely touch and go at the build-up of this book. Once the main events arrive and unfold, the book is unputdownable. Utterly and truly unputdownable. So, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I 100% encourage readers to fully commit when reading these books. They deserve your entire attention so you can be fully immersed in the story to try and theorise with the characters as to what is happening.
But, in saying that, I think it would be fair to give Craven his own Curator mantle. Throughout the story, he has you just where he wants you, before he pulls the rug out from under your feet. I found some bits foreseeable, which I suspect Craven discreetly gives away, in order to stun the reader when the real twist arrives. Did I predict the twist? Yes… But did I predict the twist within the twist? Absolutely NOT! It was chilling to the bone (especially in the aftermath of the climax).
All in all, I’m still reeling from The Curator. It was atmospheric, clever and underpinned by good friendship. I don’t know how Craven does it. Yes, while I had some difficulty getting through the middle of the story, Craven has delivered another brilliant instalment of this crime series. It’s “Classic Poe” to quote our beloved Tilly.
I’m excited for book 4! I wish it was here too! And I can’t wait for this series to be adapted to the big screen. Well done Mike.
The Curator by M.W. Craven (book 3 of Washington Poe series)
Published June 2020
Genre: crime fiction, mystery/thriller.
Thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC of this book, in exchange for this honest review.