A white-knuckle crime debut introducing DI Meg Dalton, perfect for fans of Broadchurch and Happy Valley.
This game can only end in murder
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…
Q&A WITH ROZ WATKINS
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. To kick things off can you tell us a little bit about what your novel is about?
The Devil’s Dice is the first in a new series set in The Peak District where I live. It features DI Meg Dalton, who’s recently returned to Derbyshire to make a new start. When she’s assigned a suspicious death, it’s her chance to prove to her sceptical colleagues that a slightly chubby vegetarian with a limp can make a great cop. But it’s a sinister case – a poisoned corpse has been found in a cave, and on the wall there’s a centuries-old carving of the Grim Reaper and the dead man’s initials. The man’s relatives blame a curse dating from the times of the witch trials, and locals claim the cave is haunted. Meg’s sure there’s a rational explanation, but with talk of an underground labyrinth where teenage girls go to hang themselves, the case is triggering flashbacks and memories of her dead sister. It takes all her brains and a good bit of brawn (not Meg’s strong suit) to solve the mystery and stop her own family falling victim to the curse.
Some of the themes in your book focus on local folklore and the legends in Derbyshire? Is local folklore something that you have always wanted to write about?
I do love a good creepy folk tale – I suppose they are the urban myths of the past, and some of them are irresistible. I like to make up my own versions of them which tie in with the themes of the book.
And have you always wanted to write a police procedural novel?
Absolutely not! This wasn’t at all what I intended. The book started out more of a psychological thriller, with the detective not being the main viewpoint character. But her voice ended up coming through really strongly and in the end she took over the whole book! This gave me a load of additional problems, because I knew absolutely nothing about police procedure, and I constantly worry about inaccuracies. Luckily I had a friend who was a SOCO and whose husband was a detective, so they helped me out (over large quantities of booze!)
Parts of the novel are set in caves, which can be found in and around the Peak District. Did you ever venture into similar caves as part of your research?
Yes, I went into the caves at the Heights of Abraham, which are quite similar to the Labyrinth in the book, and in the past I’ve been into the caves around Castleton, some of which you have to access by boat. Being trapped in a cave and having to swim out underwater is one of my nightmares! I’ve also explored caves abroad in Thailand and Malaysia (where I’ve encountered cave snakes and spiders, as well as a lot of bats!)
Did your characters surprise you at all when you were writing the book?
Definitely. As I said, Meg took over the whole book without permission. And the murderer changed half way through the story. Also Meg’s mum ended up having a more prominent role than I’d expected. And the character Mark had a few rants that seemed to come out of nowhere!
Did you have the story planned out before you put pen to paper or did the plot evolve during the writing process?
The plot evolved. I had no clue when I started, and I began by just writing a few scenes. Then I realised I didn’t know what I was doing, so I read books on how to write a book, and I analysed successful books (Thank you, Anne Cleeves – I chose one of Vera’s stories to pick apart forensically). As I did this, I started planning a bit more and trying to put structure into my ideas. I read a lot of screenwriting books to learn about character arcs and story progression and I devoured anything I could find by agents and editors about what makes a good, commercial novel.
How long did you spend working on your novel before you started looking for an agent?
I’d been working on it about eighteen months when I went to the York Festival of Writing. The book wasn’t ready to submit but I had a one-to-one with Claire McGowan and she said she liked my first chapter and would pass it on to her agent, Diana Beaumont, to look at. Diana liked it and said to send it to her when it was finished. I did this and she liked it. We talked and clearly saw eye-to-eye about the book (and life in general!) and she offered representation. I realise this is an annoyingly easy path to getting a brilliant agent, and I’m very grateful to Claire and the Festival of Writing!
If there was one piece of advice that you could pass on to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Write something you feel passionate about, but also accept that writing a commercial book is a craft that needs to be learnt, so invest in books and courses and conferences to learn that craft.
If your novel was to be made into a television series, who would you like to see cast as the main characters?
Oh, blimey, I’m rubbish at this. The book has been optioned and when ITV asked me this, I said maybe someone like Katherine Parkinson for Meg, as she’s great with adding humour to serious roles. Jodie Whittaker was also on my list but then she became a mega-star! Carey Mulligan’s another one I like. All these are probably a bit too good-looking, but I suppose you have to hot-up the characters for the screen 🙂
And finally, is there anything that you can tell us about what you’re writing next?
The second book in the series is nearly finished. A man is found with this throat cut and it seems to have something to do with the nightmares his daughter’s been having after her recent heart transplant. Again there are aspects which seem a little supernatural, and Meg’s belief system gets challenged big time!
This was such a good debut. I loved that witchcraft was a theme in this book which added a spooky, creepy atmosphere to the writing. This theme, for me, really made the book stand out. The author, Roz Watkins, had me googling the local myths in this book which I was absolutely fascinated by. I’m excited to see that this is the first book in a new series; it’s a series that I’m keen to read more from.
Roz Watkins opens her novel with the discovery of the body of a lawyer in a cave in the Peak District. When Detective Inspector Meg Dalton arrives at the scene, strange markings are found on the stone wall and an eerie tale concerning the caves emerges. As the investigation progresses, unsettling details surface about a curse which has plagued the family. But what makes the case all the more perplexing is when another body is found. Could such a curse really exist?
I really enjoyed getting to know Meg as a character in this novel. She faces many obstacles in her path as she tries to bring the killer to justice but she is absolutely determined to do so, whatever the cost to herself and her career. She isn’t a character without her own problems and Roz explores some interesting themes in her backstory, I won’t go into too much detail here, but these themes I’m sure will prompt plenty of discussion in book groups. Ethical and moral issues do play a huge role in this book.
I also really liked her relationship with her side-kick, Jai. There were times when I did think that perhaps their working relationship wouldn’t work but as the novel progressed I did think that Meg would be lost without him, not as a colleague in particular, but as a friend.
The pace of the novel is excellent and exciting. As I finished each chapter I really wanted to find out what was going to happen next and Roz managed to expertly conceal the final truths in this book. She is an exciting new writer who I can’t wait to read more from. I’m sure her first novel in this series will win her lots of loyal, new fans. She is a talent to watch out for. Thank you to the publisher and to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of the book to read.
Publication date: 8th March 2018
Print length: 384 pages
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