Dead Man’s Daughter by Roz Watkins - book review: Littered with intriguing clues, baffling mysteries and good old-fashioned detective work

Dead Mans Daughter by Roz Watkins
Dead Mans Daughter by Roz Watkins

It appears to be an impossible crime… could a frail 10-year-old girl kill her own father?

If you thought Roz Watkins’ outstanding debut thriller, The Devil’s Dice, couldn’t be bettered, then this multi-layered and extraordinarily atmospheric new DI Meg Dalton murder mystery proves that there’s even more firepower in this Derbyshire writer’s pen.

Chiller-thrillers are what Watkins does best… but add on clever, complex detective work, edgy mysteries that crackle with menace, and the magnificent grandeur of the Peak District rendered dark and brooding, and you have stories honed to reading perfection.

At the heart of these gripping thrillers is Meg Dalton, an intensely human and emotionally astute detective, scarred by a family tragedy but a relentless and determined maverick when it comes to digging out the truth and finding justice for the victims.

Meg is winding down for some much-needed leave but is thrown headlong into her latest case when she finds a 10-year-old girl running barefoot through some isolated woods in a blood-soaked nightdress, and heading straight towards the gorge known as ‘Dead Girl's Drop.’

In the nearby Victorian Gothic Bellhurst House, Meg discovers the girl’s father, Philip Thornton, sprawled on a blood-soaked bed with his throat cut. At first Meg suspects this is a robbery gone tragically wrong, but too many things don’t add up.

The girl, Abbie Thornton, appears to have no memory of what happened to her and when her stepmother, Rachel, arrives the next day, claiming she stayed with her own mother overnight, she says that she has several times reported a stalker to the police.

Meg also learns that both Abbie and her father have undergone heart transplants because of a genetic defect. But why has Abbie’s behaviour changed dramatically since her operation a year ago, and what was behind Philip Thornton’s obsession with Bellhurst House?

The case takes a chilling turn when evidence points to Abbie’s involvement in her own father’s murder and, as disturbing family secrets emerge, Meg is forced to question her own deepest beliefs to discover the shocking truth before the killer strikes again.

With its irresistible blend of legend and history, dark humour and classic horror, and intuition and down-to-earth detective work, Dead Man’s Daughter is a highly original whodunit with an emotion-packed and thought-provoking storyline.

Meg Dalton might be the runaway star but all the members of her supporting cast are superbly portrayed, from her smug, resentful sergeant Craig Cooper, and gruff, obsessive boss, DCI Richard Atkins, to the smooth and sleek DS Jai Sanghera, the only man in the team who has the power to make Meg’s heart flutter.

This is a story firmly rooted in our times and Watkins is not afraid to peer into dark corners when it comes to contentious, contemporary issues. Played out against a Gothic, wintertime backdrop in the shadow of the peaks, this creepy, twisting, turning mystery explores some fascinating ethical and moral dilemmas as it races at top speed to its final, heart-thumping conclusion.

Littered with intriguing clues, baffling mysteries and good old-fashioned detective work, this is a tip-top crime series up there with the very best.

(HQ, hardback, £12.99)