'Peak District is a great place for planning a murder' says Derbyshire crime novelist

When Roz Watkins' dog found a bone that looked like a human spine, that triggered a series of Derbyshire based detective stories.

Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 3:53 pm
Roz Watkins has written three detective novels set in the Peak District.
Roz Watkins has written three detective novels set in the Peak District.

Roz said: "The Peak District is a great location for planning murders. I pondered what it might be like if your dog found a body. Actually the bone turned out to be a hare (they are remarkably big) but it had got me thinking.

"The caves, woods, cliffs, quarries, rugged moorland, etc, are great locations for killing people, and I also love the local myths and legends. For example, despite being about as far from the sea as you can be, we have several evil mermaids in the area."

Author Roz’s award-nominated debut novel The Devil's Dice, and its successor, Dead Man's Daughter, are set in the village of Eldercliffe, which is based on Wirksworth. Shining Cliff woods inspire woodlands in the stories while Stanton Moor, Nine Ladies Circle, Bonsall, Flash and Black Mere Pool (Mermaid's Pool) also make appearances.

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Ladybower Reservoir near Bamford in the Peak District National Park. Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images.

Her latest book, entitled Cut To The Bone*, is about a controversial young social media star who has vanished in the middle of a scorching hot Peak District summer. Roz said: "Cut to the Bone was partly inspired by the area around Ladybower reservoir, particularly the drowned villages, which I’m fascinated by. I also wanted to explore the meat industry and in particular factory farming and the way pigs are kept, and the way our attitudes to animals may impact on our behaviour with people."Living in Alderwasley gives Roz, 52, the perfect opportunity to scout out locations in which to set her books. However, she is unable to say whether her stories have lured droves of readers to the Peak District. Roz said: "I’m not sure if people have come specially but I’ve definitely had people asking me which of the locations are real, and sending me pictures of places they’ve found which look like places in the book. Somebody found a cave in Wirksworth that looked very like my made-up cave!"

Her stories have been dubbed Derbyshire's answer to Broadchurch, the hit TV drama series set in Dorset. Asked about the similarities, Roz said: "I think the reliance on atmospheric surroundings and also the banter between the main characters."

The central character in the books is Detective Inspector Meg Dalton who Roz has modelled on herself and a mix of her friends. She said: "I wanted her to be a normal person, not a glamorous character so she’s a bit short and plump and has a limp, and usually has cat hair on her clothes. She’s not particularly physically tough, but she’s smart, and uses her brains to get herself out of the many scrapes she gets into!"I try to add some humour into the conversations between the cops, to lighten the tone a little. When I meet people in the police, they all seem to have a great sense of humour, and they use humour to cope with some of the more difficult aspects of the job. The Derbyshire police have been hugely supportive and helpful!"The Devil's Dice, which was published in 2018, made the shortlist of the Crime Writers Association's Debut Dagger shortlist. Roz said: "The daggers are important awards in crime writing so it was amazing to get that recognition."Roz is under contract to write three more novels in the series and says she is also interested in writing standalone books.As for her ambitions, she said: " I’d love my books to be wildly successful and on TV, and make me a millionaire! But mainly I’d like to be able to keep writing the best books I can and enjoying living in such a beautiful part of the world."Between writing, Roz runs two holiday cottages and renovating them inspired her to start writing. She said: "I’m not sure if it was the effect of hammering out mortar all day long, or that dealing with builders made me think about murder (just kidding, any builders out there!)"Her route to writing novels took many twists and turns which included working as a professional animal trainer, hypnotherapist and a partner in a firm of patent lawyers in Derby after studying engineering at Cambridge University. She said: "I realised I’d spent my whole adult life with my head down obsessing about passing exams, then becoming a partner, and there were so many other fascinating things in the world!"Roz has lived in Alderwasley for nine years. She said: "Before we got together my partner had lived in Berlin for ten years, so it was a bit of a shock to his system. It's stunning in this area, but it's off the main tourist trail, so we feel we get the best of both worlds."The couple owns a small menagerie of pets including two horses, a dog and two cats. Roz said: "One of the cats was not ours but decided he wanted to live here and launched such a determined campaign (spending most of his time leaping onto our shoulders and draping himself around us like a fox stole) that we and his farmer owner gave up and he’s now officially ours."

*Cut To The Bone is published by HQ, Harper Collins.

Roz Watkins' third book in a series of detective novels is published on April 29, 2021.

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Derwent village - now flooded by the waters of Ladybower Reservoir