I’m absolutely thrilled to be kicking of the blog tour today for Roz Watkins new crime debut, The Devil’s Dice! The first book in the DI Meg Dalton series, this is a gripping and atmospheric thriller you won’t want to miss! One of the most striking things I found about this book was the Peak District setting and I’m delighted to welcome Roz Watkins to Cosy Books today to tell us just why she chose it.
Detective Inspector Meg Dalton has recently returned to her Peak District roots, when a man’s body is found near The Devil’s Dice – a vast network of caves and well-known local suicide spot. The man’s initials and a figure of the Grim Reaper are carved into the cave wall behind his corpse, but bizarrely, the carvings have existed for over one hundred years.
The locals talk about a mysterious family curse that started in the times of the witch trials, and Meg finds it increasingly hard to know who to trust. Even her own mother may be implicated.
For Meg, the case is a chance to prove herself in a police force dominated by men, one of whom knows a lot more about her past than she’d like, and is convinced she’s not fit for the role. In a race against time, Meg finds her own life at risk as she fights to stop the murderer from killing again.
Published March 8th 2018 by HQStories
Roz Watkins is the author of the DI Meg Dalton crime series, which is set in the Peak District where Roz lives with her partner and a menagerie of demanding animals.
Her first book, The Devil’s Dice, was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger Award, and has been optioned for TV.
Roz studied engineering at Cambridge University before training in patent law. She was a partner in a firm of patent attorneys in Derby, but this has absolutely nothing to do with there being a dead one in her first novel.
In her spare time, Roz likes to walk in the Peak District, scouting out murder locations.
Why I chose to set ‘The Devil’s Dice’ in the Peak District
The original reason was my dog and his foul habits. I live on the edge of the Peak District, which my dog approves of because of the excellent walking. We were out one day when he disappeared. This is always a bad sign as it means he’s:
a) Found a group of picnickers and decided to invite himself along;
b) Found a stinking foetid pit in which to take a bath;
c) Found a decomposing rabbit, sheep, or on one horrible occasion cow, to devour.
So it was with some trepidation that I watched him emerge from the undergrowth looking very pleased with himself, with something dangling from his mouth, swinging pendulously with every bounding step. I caught my breath and took a step back, because (to my brain at least) it looked just like a human spine.
As he got closer, I realised it was a hare, but it got me wondering what it might be like to come upon a human corpse when on a dog walk. And that’s what happens in ‘The Devil’s Dice’. A man dies in a cave and is found by a Labrador.
Here’s Starsky, very proud of himself!
I soon realised that The Peak District is a perfect location for crime novels. It has underground passageways, cliffs, quarries, and pools where evil mermaids are supposed to lurk. It also has some lovely towns, and I used Wirksworth as the inspiration for my fictional town, Eldercliffe. Wirksworth has an incredible area called The Puzzle Gardens where a jumble of tiny cottages and random gardens perch on a hillside so steep it feels like you can step out of one cottage onto the roof of another.
There are also miles of tunnels running underground in the area of the Peak District where I live. Being trapped underground with water rising around me is one of my worst nightmares, so it seemed natural to inflict this on my poor, long-suffering character in my fist book. I invented a network of tunnels called The Labyrinth, but it was based on real cave systems like the ones at The Heights of Abraham and Castleton.
I gave my main character a fear of heights so I could torture her some more by making the victim live in a house perched on the edge of a quarry. This was based on the quarry at Wirksworth, where the houses almost teeter on its edge.
This Peak District is also rich with folk tales and legends. I tend to make up my own stories to fit with the themes of the books, and in the first book, suspected witches were historically taken into the Labyrinth to be hanged. But my ideas are often inspired by real local folk tales which are usually quite gruesome.
Friends think it’s strange (and a little worrying) that the beauty of the Peak District gets me thinking about murder, but my excuse is that it all started with the dog.
Thanks to the very generous people at HQ Stories I Have THREE hardback copies of The Devil’s Dice to giveaway. Simply pop over to follow my twitter account @Vicki_cosybooks and Re-tweet my pinned post. U.K. Only I’m afraid. Ends Midnight 22nd March 2018 .