“A deadly game of murder”
- Book: The Devil’s Dice
- Location: The Peak District
- Author: Roz Watkins
Wow! After an adrenaline rush like that, I seriously need a short break before I even think about my next review assignment. Roz certainly stirred up a whole host of emotions and pushed so many personal ‘hot buttons’ for me, that I need to get my thoughts in some kind of logical sequence.
The opening narrative passages of this book really set the scene, before there was even a single word of dialogue spoken. The storyline unfolded at quite an even pace, although I must admit I was getting to the stage when I wondered whether it was being stretched out a tad too much and the book was longer than it needed to have been. Then BAM! I hit the 70% marker, or thereabouts, and all hell breaks loose, leading to an ending which I hadn’t worked out at all and which changed and morphed so many times as I was reading, that I even began to confuse myself! The suspense levels were off the scale, the red herrings just kept coming, and there were more twists and turns in the storyline than in a coiled snake!
My personal journey through this story as it infolded was a little uncomfortable, as there were so many ‘too close to home’ ethicacy and morality truths that I needed to confront long before Meg did. I won’t be giving too much away in my review as that would spoil everything, but neither will I be venturing a personal opinion about any of the many issues discussed, as my thoughts might be deemed too controversial. Let’s just say that this one would make for a great book club / reading group option, as believe me, there will be plenty to discuss and debate when you have finished! I definitely need to catch up with the subsequent two books in this series, and I’m sure you will too!
Most certainly not your ‘traditional’ crime / thriller, this often highly emotional, well constructed storyline was definitely multi-layered to the point where I didn’t know whether I was coming or going, but that was just Roz setting me up for a big fall (well several actually!), when I guessed the outcome wrong again! The action was intense, vividly and richly descriptive, and oozing with atmosphere. There was a real depth and range to the many troubling issues which crowded this storyline and they were each focussed upon with great empathy and sympathy. Roz unravelled them all excruciatingly slowly, whilst linking them all together with great expertise and fluidity, to create the very disturbing bigger picture, which led to a killer, with retribution very much on their mind. The sometimes equally unconventional narrative and dialogue was written with more than enough authority and confidence to heighten the suspense to barely sustainable levels, whilst references to folklore, witchcraft and superstition, had me looking over my shoulder with as much suspicion and fear as Meg herself.
Roz also featured some interesting references to the local area, which she knows so well, working them seamlessly into the narrative, and me being of the slightly nerdy disposition that I am, spent several short spells away from actually reading, checking out the places and landscapes she described, as despite me also living in the UK, this is a part of the country I have never explored. Similarly, it was good to see that Roz also selected a period of her own employment history and featured that in the storyline, making this a truly personal backstory for what is a gripping, toe-curling, hide-under-the-duvet, kind of story.
Roz invested equal care, consideration, empathy and exposure to her sprawling cast of complex characters, as she did to that jaw dropping storyline. Whilst none of them were particularly easy to connect with, or often even to like, she expertly opened them all up to outside scrutiny, until they really got under my skin and forced me to opine about them. Meg herself, as the main protagonist, was perhaps one of the most difficult to assess. As with so many fictional detectives, she came with so much excess baggage that she was almost on her knees with the sheer weight of it all! Add to that, she is the first fictional detective I have met with a physical disability and such low self esteem, that I was wondering how she had achieved her rank. Bit by bit though, she reveals her story to be that of someone with a comprehensive education, who worked her butt off to gain a place at Cambridge, and who has worked her way up through the ranks to achieve her current position. At one point, when her physical appearance, her penchant for being accident prone, the state of her home and the way she operated, all contrived to paint this picture in my head, I was left with someone who was a cross between a young Hetty Wainthropp, a female Columbo, with a twist on Mary Beth Lacey (of Cagney & Lacey fame) and maybe a little of DI Jack Frost thrown in for good measure!! Not fair I know and very disingenuous I suspect, as it transpires that she is very competent officer and highly intelligent, just very insecure, searching for a sense of belonging, lacking confidence and a little too eager to prove herself to her new boss and colleagues.
Meg’s position as a ‘newbie’, was not helped at all by the attitude of some members of her new team. She has a boss who I thought might have been slightly misogynistic and one DS who wanted promotion to her job, but was overlooked, making him bitter, twisted and almost dangerous to know. Whilst the two younger members of her team, Jai and Fiona, are more than willing to give her a chance and know the value of collaborative thinking, when faced with such a complex case. If she is to grow, progress and succeed in her new role, I really want to see Meg showing leadership and taking control of the situation in a disciplined way, although she does need to keep a wary eye on the personal relationship which may be developing between herself and Jai!
What a brilliant debut for DI Meg Dalton and I hope that now she has unburdened herself of some of the emotional baggage which has been haunting her for so long, her career will flourish and go from strength to strength, as the series progresses.
BTW! – I also got scared witless! – But that’s all good!