Book Review

Cut to the Bone by Roz Watkins

A beautiful young social-media star goes missing.

But who took her?

When controversial internet celebrity Violet Armstrong vanishes in the middle of a scorching Peak District summer, the case sparks a media frenzy.

The clock is ticking for DI Meg Dalton and her team to find Violet before online threats explode into real-life violence. And then the blood and hair of a young woman are found in an empty pig trough at the local abattoir…

The more Meg finds out about this unnerving case, the more she becomes convinced that something very, very bad has happened to Violet. With temperatures rising and the press demanding answers, the case is about to take a terrifying turn…

Cut to the Bone is the third instalment in Roz Watkins’ DI Meg Dalton series. You don’t necessarily need to have read the first two books – The Devil’s Dice and Dead Man’s Daughter – to enjoy this, but I do recommend it. Firstly, they’re brilliant, but by diving in at book three, you’d be missing out on some of the history of these characters, and in particular the working relationships of those in Meg’s team.  Each mystery works as a standalone, however, and Watkins does avoid giving spoilers as to the previous cases as some authors seem prone to do.

Cut to the Bone sees Meg and her team looking into the disappearance of Violet Armstrong – a young woman with a controversial online persona.  A missing persons case might sound straightforward, but this is a Roz Watkins novel, and nothing is as simple as it seems. With absolutely no sign of the missing Violet, it’s hard to know where to start, and the team soon move to the assumption that the worst has happened given the complete lack of evidence to the contrary.

Violet herself is a fascinating character, even if she seems quite shallow at first.  We’re first introduced to her through her social media persona – a young woman who BBQs meat wearing just a bikini.  It’s niche and attracts all sorts of viewers as I’m sure you can imagine.  She quickly proves to be a more complex figure than is first apparent, however, and this online persona belies her feminist views and her opinions on animal welfare and meat consumption.  It’s a situation that evokes sympathy for the character as you come to understand more about her.  There’s a lot about Violet that isn’t immediately apparent, and Meg and her team have their work cut out in understanding what has happened to this young woman.

As well as writing cracking police procedurals, Watkins always adds a little something extra to her novels that makes them stand out in a somewhat crowded market.  In Cut to the Bone, it’s the local legend of the Pale Child.  Set around Lady Bower reservoir and its sunken village, it’s said that in the driest years when the water is particularly low that the Pale Child emerges, and if she sees your face, then you’re soon to die.  It’s creepy just thinking about it, and it’s a legend that fits in perfectly with the location and the novel itself.  I love the way in which Watkins has woven this element into the narrative and the way in which Meg dismisses nothing, despite her scepticism and however outrageous such things might seem on the surface.

With the setting of a fictional abattoir, Watkins also highlights issues around animal welfare and meat consumption.  It adds an interesting moral dilemma to the novel, and highlights the inconsistent attitudes of some – happy to eat meat as long as they aren’t directly faced with the welfare of those animals.  I think that anyone who eats meat – myself included – could do more to consider animal wellbeing.  This message does come across in the novel without being preachy, however – it’s an element to the narrative that fits in seamlessly, and gives the reader something to ponder without feeling judged. 

Cut to the Bone is a brilliant novel.  I perhaps found it a little slow to start as Watkins sets the scene, but the pace soon picks up and I was gripped by what is another brilliant mystery, once again trying and failing to figure it out before the denouement.  Highly recommended to fans of crime fiction. 

The DI Meg Dalton series:

  1. The Devil’s Dice
  2. Dead Man’s Daughter
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