Today I am delighted to share my review of The Devil’s Dice by Roz Watkins. This is another book I’ve had on my shelf for a while but took the opportunity to listen to the audio book while on my travels last week. We’ll take a look at what I thought just as soon as we’ve seen what it’s all about.
About the Book
A SHOCKING DEATH
A lawyer is found dead in a Peak District cave, his face ribboned with scratches.
A SINISTER MESSAGE
Amidst rumours of a local curse, DI Meg Dalton is convinced this is cold-blooded murder. There’s just one catch – chiselled into the cave wall above the body is an image of the grim reaper and the dead man’s initials, and it’s been there for over a century.
A DEADLY GAME
As Meg battles to solve the increasingly disturbing case, it’s clear someone knows her secrets. The murderer is playing games with Meg – and the dice are loaded…
A white-knuckle crime debut introducing DI Meg Dalton, perfect for fans of Broadchurch and Happy Valley.
I do love my police procedurals with a touch of the unexpected about them. With the story opening upon the discovery of a body in a cave dwelling in Derbyshire at the site of ‘The Devil’s Dice’, a place of local urban legend of witchcraft and mystery, DI Meg Dalton finds herself drawn into a very complex case. Did patent Solicitor Peter Hamilton take his own life, was it murder or was something far more sinister at play here?
And so the tale begins. And what a tale it is. With the first attending officer on the scene letting slip to Meg about the urban legend surrounding the cave, that of a supposed witch and the many suicides which have taken place in the tunnels leading from the cave over the years, you would be forgiven for thinking that this was purely a spook tale, one of the supernatural. And while there are recurring themes of witchcraft, tales of ‘the devil’s work’ and family curses throughout, it is also a very accomplished police procedural with a mixture of larger than life characters, both good and bad, many harbouring secrets which could have very large repercussions for all.
The officer at the centre of the whole investigation is DI Meg Dalton. Relatively new to the Derbyshire force, she has many secrets of her own, some of them far better known than she may realise. She is a truly interesting character, damaged both emotionally and physically, and the very nature of the case brings her own demons to the fore. She is feisty, determined, not easily swayed but very easily spooked – and I really liked her. her relationship with her family is complex, alarmingly so as becomes clear as the story progresses, but she is utterly dedicated to them, and to finding out the truth of what happened to the victim.
Alongside her there is the usual team and it was great getting to know them all, especially DS Jai Sanghera. I wasn’t sure of him to begin with, his character seeming to be a little aloof and perhaps even oblivious at the start but as things moved it was clear how sharp his mind really was and how committed he was to Meg and helping her. They were not without their conflicts but of all the members of her team, he is the one she could rely upon most. DS Craig Cooper seemed to be a bit of a bigoted pillock but even he showed a small essence of redeeming qualities in the end, if only very briefly. DC Fiona Redfern was another great character, very keen, and very loyal she was easy to like.
As far as suspects or villains go we were provided with a wide array. From arrogant solicitors to do-gooding religious types, there are many people who fall under suspicion at some stage, keeping to the reader guessing as to who, if anyone, was responsible for the death of Peter Hamilton. with much talk of a family curse and the things which befall them, it would be easy to believe that fate has a heavy hand in what happens and Roz Watkins has done a brilliant job in creating this sense of tension and suspense around that which we cannot see but merely feel. Speaking of that which can be felt, she really puts poor Meg through the ringer too. If I’d been bashed and beaten as often as she is in this book, I’d be left thinking someone was trying to tell me something.
As to whether the culprit inhabits and earthly or astral plane, you will need to read to find out. There are some very emotive themes touched upon in this book, ones which will divide opinions of readers if discussed openly. I’ll not say much about them here as you need to read for yourself to understand but, much like in the book, it is easy to understand both points of view and the dividing line between right and wrong is not so easily drawn. A great look at a very sensitive subject.
Told from Meg’s point of view, the pacing and tension in this were just right and her character engaging enough to hold my attention from start to finish. A very competent and entertaining debut and I’m looking forward to seeing more from Meg and co in the future.
My thanks go to Roz Watkins and HQ Stories for sending me an advance copy of the book. I reviewed the audio version which I thoroughly enjoyed and certainly kept me entertained on my long drive to Basildon and back. The book is available now from the following links: