Author : M.W. Craven
Title : The Botanist
Series : Washington Poe #5
Pages : 430
Publisher : Constable / Little Brown UK
Publication date : June 2, 2022
Source : Owned
| ABOUT THE 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 to 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 THOUGHTS |
Ah well. Washington Poe might hate locked room mysteries but I happen to love them and luckily for me, there isn’t just one of them in ‘The Botanist‘ but two!
There’s a dangerous poisoner on the loose, who very kindly warns his victims upfront that they are going to die by sending them a dried flower and a poem. Aw, so sweet. Despite this advance notice and despite victims being protected, the killer is able to fulfil his mission every time. But how?! How does he do it?
Then there’s Estelle Doyle, one of very few people Washington Poe considers a friend. Her father has been found murdered in his study. Estelle has firearms residue on her hands and there’s only one set of footprints outside in the snow. Hers. Poe refuses to believe Estelle has anything to do with her father’s murder but it might just be impossible to prove.
There is something so endlessly fascinating and sheer fun about locked room mysteries. The “but how did they do it?” easily entertains me for hours and things were no different here. I had a brilliant time trying to figure things out in both of these cases. Smug as I am, I was convinced I knew how the poisoner was tackling things, but Estelle’s predicament had me utterly stumped and my theories became more and more outlandish by the minute. Drones? Hoverboard? Aliens? Needless to say I was wrong about my poisoner theory too.
‘The Botanist‘, as the poisoner ends up being called, is as dark and delightful as I’ve come to expect from this series. Sure, the killer is a disturbed and twisted character but he’s also a bit of a genius and in an odd sort of way one couldn’t help but admire how he managed to achieve … erm, the things that he achieved. For Poe, Bradshaw and Flynn it mostly just spells frustration as the botanist is always at least five steps ahead of them.
Let’s not forget how Mike Craven is also always able to lighten the mood in his grim and unsettling stories. It’s not an easy thing to accomplish, adding a healthy dose of humour to disturbing crime fiction and you always kind of feel like it shouldn’t work somehow. But Craven is an author who seems to have found the magic way to achieve it every single time and of course, if you’re following this series, you know that most of it comes from the mouth of Tilly Bradshaw. Obviously I can’t give you an example but I promise you, there are some belters! There’s also another thing, that I can’t possibly talk about, but it warmed my cold, cold heart. You’ll just have to discover it all for yourselves.
I can’t believe this series is already at its fifth book. It’s definitely one of those crime fiction series that has been getting better and better. I think ‘The Botanist‘ is the best one yet, which I’m pretty sure I say after every instalment. As Chris Whitaker’s quote on the jacket says : “it has everything”. You wouldn’t want to miss out, now would you? This is one of my favourite series and I can’t wait for the next one. If the sneak peek at the end of my hardback is anything to go by, it’ll be yet another cracker!
The Botanist is available to buy. While you’re doing that, why not pick up the other books in the series if you haven’t done so already. I promise you won’t regret it.
20 Books of Summer : 14/20