Speak of the Devil by Rose Wilding – Review
By Sandra Callard
This alarmingly unique debut novel centres on a group of women who all have had damaging issues during and after relationships with the same man, whose real personality is easily hidden by his outward appearance of a young, handsome and caring person.
Jamie Spellman is particularly good looking, has no problem at all in attracting women of all ages and most women think they are lucky to have caught his attention. But his penchant is to then use them for sex, abuse and humiliation, usually for quite some time, and then drop them and move on to another target, leaving behind a string of disillusioned, pregnant, embarrassed – and very angry – women in his wake.
A group of some of the women he has humiliated arrange a meeting to discuss how they could put a stop to his activities. They meet in the shabby upstairs room of a local pub and, on entry, are faced with the horror of the decapitated head of Jamie on the floor. They know the killer is likely to be one of them, as they are all his victims, so they begin the search, alongside Detective Inspector Nova Stokoe.
This detective is sharp and clever and works closely with the women as she watches for any slip they may make to point to the truth. She is horrified by the things which are coming to light regarding the deceased man but the search for the killer is slow. The women are a heady mixture with various sexual proclivities which err on the side of fun, and all are horrified when Spellman’s real personality is exposed.
The seven women, including the one female policewoman, are clearly defined in nature and appearance and are all very different, although their hurt and anger about Jamie is evenly spread across them all. The woman detective finds it hard to be impartial but finds herself slowly feeling as outraged as the rest of them.
The theme of the story is unusual and bold, and it is seen purely from the side of the injured women. It is an unusual slant on the everlasting male/female debate which comes down clearly on the female side. There are not many male characters, but this is definitely a story concerning women to the almost total exclusion of men, as the horrors that Jamie inflicted on these people seem to make every other man a suspect – even though we all know this to be unfair.
The book plays about with time, and necessitates a regrouping now and again to sort out where the reader is in the timeline of the story. This does seem a popular thing to do at the moment, and I do not like it, but it takes only seconds to arrange your mind and you are on your way again and following the story.
The book is a fast read, and the denouement is shockingly descriptive, with a most unexpected twist. It’s is a fitting finale to a complicated but readable book which never once pulls its punches.
‘Speak of the Devil’ by Rose Wilding is published by Baskerville, £14.99 hardback