The Gold Dagger award is always a reliable guide to brilliant crime fiction and last year’s winner, “The Puppet Show,” illustrates that rule. This is a sparkling, dancing read from start to finish, with a serpentine plot that tested even this jaded genre reader’s mind. The heroes at the heart of this novel (and the series which is now expanding) are exuberant, engrossing, and humorous: bluff, driven detective Washington Poe, initially banished from the force; and socially inept super analyst Tilly Bradshaw. A horrendous serial killer is burning victims alive at Lake District stone circles, the police force is baffled, and Poe is re-enlisted to help. The author has a flawless grip on the pace of the adventure, the action is Jeffrey-Deaver-fast, and the outworkings of the clues are brilliant. The Puppet Show is highly recommended, and I’m racing to get Books 2 and 3.