Cut to the Bone by Roz Watkins

HQ | 2020 (25 June), Pb 2021 (1 April) | 384p | Review copy and Bought copy | Buy the book | Listen to the book

When social media star Violet Armstrong, a glamorous advocate of eating meat, vanishes it is strongly suspected that she died in the abattoir in the Derbyshire Peak District town of Gritton, a place where she worked. No trace of her can be found but then there are pigs, hungry pigs. The suspicion of such a gruesome and terrible crime casts a shadow over the community, tinged with a superstitious fear of the circumstances of Violet’s possible death – there are rumours of a strange figure, the Pale Child, the sighting of whom means death and it is believed that Violet saw her just before she disappeared.

Emotions are high as vigilante groups join the fray, threatening to execute animals if the puzzle behind Violet’s disappearance isn’t solved. DI Meg Dalton is caught in the middle of an angry and upset community as she faces the question that perhaps Violet isn’t even dead at all and maybe there is something to be discovered in the dark past of Violet’s own family.

Cut to the Bone is the third novel in Roz Watkins’ fine series featuring Detective Inspector Meg Dalton. I love these books, which all stand alone brilliantly, especially because they so richly evoke their setting in the Peak District, a place that means so much to me, and also because of Meg. Meg is wonderful! There’s no darkness to her, she’s kind, witty and well-liked, with such a good team working beside her. Despite the disturbing crimes she must investigate, it’s always a pleasure to spend time with Meg in this atmospheric place. This novel is set during a hot summer and so there is a different feel to it as everyone must struggle in the heat. And once again it was wonderful to hear those names of familiar places.

This case is a little different because Meg, and us, don’t even know if there’s a body. There is so little to go on and what there is is focused on an abattoir, a place of misery (I’m a vegetarian so I am possibly biased!). Also perhaps because I’m a veggie, I did find the character of Violet quite difficult to like but she is quite a force to be reckoned with and there is much to admire in such a young woman. But it’s the parallel story from the past, of Violet’s parents and family, that I found especially engrossing. Roz Watkins is a fantastic writer and she is so good at fleshing out her characters with mood and feelings. It is a dark tale but it is a beautifully written one.

As usual with this series, it’s the figure of Meg who counteracts the darkness of the crimes and their perpetrators. She reminds us why this is such a special place. Meg doesn’t jump to conclusions. She’s methodical and yet trusts her instincts. We know that right is on her side and that, although the journey might be troubled, she will get there in the end. She’s tested to her limit in Cut to the Bone, tension is high and it’s visceral. You can imagine the squeals of the animals in their last moments, the blood and the violence, which isn’t just against animals. Because of the theme, I did find Cut to the Bone quite disturbing at times but, as always, it’s the Peaks and Meg that drew me in. I can’t wait for Meg’s return.

You can always tell when I love a series. I don’t only have the review book of this, I also have the smart hardback and the audiobook! I listened to the audiobook and it was brilliantly read by Caro Clarke.

Other reviews
The Devil’s Dice
Dead Man’s Daughter

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