First published back in April of 2017, British author David Watkins’ novel ‘The Devil’s Inn’ brought to life a traditional Devonshire legend, with explosive devilish consequences.

DLS Synopsis:
It was a bitter cold January when Mark and his girlfriend Elana together with Mark’s best friend James, set off for a party at their friend’s house in picturesque Devon.  Mark had recently purchased a brand new Audi A6 and was relying on the car’s in-built SatNav to get them to their destination.  Elana was however far from convinced with the route the car was taking them along.  To make matters worse, shortly after taking a detour across Dartmoor, a thick blanket of fog, followed by a downpour of snow, started to descend upon the country lane.

With the road becoming more hazardous to travel by the second, the group decide to pull in and see if they can find anywhere to wait out the hazardous weather.  With visibility deteriorating with each minute that goes by, the group start seeing and hearing strange things.  Elana is convinced she sees seen the cloaked figure of a monk through the fog and snow.  But when she looks again the figure has gone.

With hope of locating somewhere within the heavy white downpour fading fast, the trio stumble upon a seemingly isolated pub in the desolate rural expanse.

But they soon find that the pub isn’t quite the sanctuary they thought it would be.  Mark, Elana and James learn the pub is home to an eerie legend.  Inscribed on a plaque above the fireplace proclaims the legend “Burning since September 1845”.  An age-old story that the pub’s fire had been burning since the Devil reaped his vengeance on a gambler who attempted to play an underhand trick upon the lord of darkness.

Should the fire go out, it was said the Devil would appear and claim the souls of all inside.  And much to the horror of the pub’s trapped inhabitants, their supply of firewood was coming to an end.  After over one hundred and fifty years, the flames in the fireplace are finally dying out.

A terrible evil is about to descend on this isolated pub in Dartmoor…

DLS Review:
There’s something about a horror story that wholeheartedly embraces its inherent Britishness.  Steeped in a typical British legend, author David Watkins weaves in an age-old myth from the area, to tell his own tale, one that escalates until it’s bursting at the seams with 80’s pulp-like adrenaline-pumping action and suspense.

Think Iain Rob Wright’s debut novel ‘The Final Winter’ (2011) meets ‘Die Hard 2’ (1990) with a Shaun Hutson style thirst for explosive action.  Admittedly the tale takes a little while to really get going.  Rightly or wrongly, Watkins doesn’t kick start the tale with any early burst of action or horror for us to whet our appetites with from early on.  Instead we’re gradually coerced into the story with a character-driven scene-setting that seems to meander until it eventually gets to the real thrust of the plot.

Despite the undoubted focus upon its characters, the story fails to really flesh out these characters.  Mark and Elana are undeniably the principal protagonists, yet even this young couple have little to no flesh on their bones.  In fact it’s very much a cardboard cut-out cast who simply play out their individual roles in the unfolding tale – with the inevitable deaths sadly failing to raise much of a reaction from the wanting reader.

At the heart of the tale there’s definitely a good basis for a solid action-horror story.  All the ingredients are there in the pot; bubbling away with plenty of vigorous energy, keeping the storyline turning over as it goes.  But behind the somewhat singular storyline there’s really very little body.  Crucial aspects of the storyline, in particular the inclusion of the Devil’s cloaked monks, are left almost wholly unexplored.  On top of this, there’s virtually no subplots or additional layers to be woven in to give any greater depth to the tale.

Furthermore, there’s a distinct lack of a pulse (or much needed emotion) within the tale.  There’s no character arcs or struggles to overcome anything but the flat-faced dilemma (however terrifying it is) that’s immediately before these characters.  Indeed, none of the characters have much in the way of defining characteristics, other than Mark’s best mate James who’s portrayed as somewhat of a cheeky lad, leaving the rest of the characters almost as mannequin like puppets.

Nevertheless, despite these issues, I don’t want to come down with too much heavy criticism on the novel.  Watkins has a voice, one that’s quintessentially British, and the novel is that much richer for it.  The action Watkins has injected into his tale doesn’t hold back one bit, laying down a volley of fast and furious punches that barely lets up once the action gets underway.  Anyone can (and will) be cut down in the course of his tale.  There’s bloodshed and danger that appears seemingly on every page as the action takes hold of the story.

But with a lack of any emotional connection with the reader properly instilled, one can’t help but feel a tad removed from what’s unfolding on the pages before you.  That said, for a handful of hours’ worth of Devonshire Devilry – it’s nevertheless still a damn entertaining read.  And at the end of the day, isn’t that largely what novels like this are all about?

The novel runs for a total of 192 pages.

 © DLS Reviews



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