Assume Nothing, Believe Nobody, Challenge Everything (2015) by Mike Craven

Well, that’s a pithy title.

Detective Inspector Avison Fluke leads Cumbria’s Force Major Incident Team in this selection of short stories from Mike aka M W Craven.

  • A woman is accused of child cruelty
  • The FMIT get together for a game of poker
  • Fluke finds himself in court, for once as a defence witness
  • The team takes on a villain that seems to be untouchable
  • Fluke visits Sudan, hunting for a missing GP
  • With Fluke in hospital, his deputy investigates the murder of middle-woman by a local crime family

A step back before I tackle this collection. You may recall me raving about M W Craven’s The Puppet Show (which won the CWA Gold Dagger) and the follow-up, Black Summer. These are absolutely cracking modern crime thrillers with a good dash of mystery threaded through them. I then discovered that these weren’t Craven’s first books, but under the name Mike Craven, he released three books featuring Avison Fluke. A quick hunt on the internet located the first, Born In A Burial Gown, and the last, i.e. this title. I must admit, I wasn’t aware that it was a collection of short stories that runs to 92 pages, but luckily I didn’t pay much for it.

As it happens, I never got round at the time to reading either of them, which is apparently good news as re-written versions of Born In A Burial Gown and the second novel, Body Breaker, are being re-released in January by Constable. I checked with Mike Craven himself, and he recommended waiting for the re-issued books – if I’m lucky, review copies will be winging their way to me soon. But the book of short stories isn’t being re-issued, so I thought I’d take a look.

I have no idea where these fit in Fluke’s storyline. Judging from the Burial Gown blurb, Fluke has an illness, which is only discussed in the final story, so I guess most of them come before the first novel. Not that this is particularly important, but it’s good to know – I’m not sure where these stories first appeared.

Anyway, most importantly, are they any good? Hell, yeah.

For short stories, they all contain a good surprise – I’d say that one of them is pretty guessable, but it’s still a good one. And, if you’re being picky, one or two of them are a little more like shaggy dog stories rather than proper thrillers. But these are so well written, you’ll find yourself not caring. They give a good cross-section of Fluke’s team, and one story, SkuttleButt, shows how far they are willing to go outside of the system if necessary.

I don’t think beyond the two re-written titles that there are any plans for more Fluke tales, but based on this collection, I’m looking forward to January immensely.

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