Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams

Blog tour: 26 July to 4 August 2021


Once upon a time there was a red wolf. But this is no fairy tale. He was a killer.

A convicted murderer with a story to tell
Serial killer Michael Reave – known as The Red Wolf – has been locked in Belmarsh Prison for over 20 years for the brutal and ritualistic murders of countless women.

A grieving daughter with a secret to unearth
Ex-journalist Heather Evans returns to her childhood home after her mother’s inexplicable suicide and discovers something chilling – hundreds of letters between her mother and Reave, dating back decades.

A hunt for a killer ready to strike again
When the body of a woman is found decorated with flowers, just like his victims, Reave is the only person alive who could help. After years of silence, he will speak to Heather, and only Heather.

If she wants to unearth the truth and stop further bloodshed, she’ll have to confront a monster.

My review

After the unexpected death of her estranged mother, former journalist Heather Evans heads to her old family home in Balesford to sort out Colleen’s belongings and finalise the funeral arrangements. The pair haven’t been close for years, since her father’s death, but Heather is shocked by her mother’s suicide and the strange note that she left behind and hopes to discover some clues in the house that will give her an idea about Colleen’s mental state in the weeks before her death.

The house is eerie and it feels like there’s a presence inside with various strange things happening. Her mother’s friend, Lilian, from up the road is a bit odd, despite kindly popping in with a stew. Luckily, Heather has an old friend, Nikki Appiah, who gets in touch again and the pair meet up for a drink.

While sorting paperwork in the attic, Heather is surprised to discover an old biscuit tin containing two bundles of letters between her mother and a man called Michael Reave who was in prison. The letters go back decades, including the early years of her parents’ marriage. Heather searches on the internet and is horrified to discover that Reave is still in Belmarsh prison and is a convicted serial killer, nicknamed The Red Wolf, who was responsible for the murder of five women in Lancashire and Manchester, and possibly many others too.

When Heather confesses to her friend about the letters she’s found, Nikki tells her that, shockingly, there have been some similar murders recently and women have been found dead and laid out in the same intricate way as Reave used to, using flowers and plants. Either a copycat killer is at large or Reave wasn’t responsible for the original crimes. Or perhaps he had an accomplice?

Heather phones the police and talks to DI Ben Parker about the letters and he’s very interested in Colleen’s correspondence and connection with Reave, especially in light of recent events. The police speak to Reave, who is keen to meet up with Heather when he learns that she is Colleen’s daughter.

It doesn’t make sense that Colleen would have corresponded with such a man and Heather agrees to talk to Reave. The meetings between them are very tense and there’s a lot unsaid between the two of them. I felt scared for Heather, her safety and mental health. At times, the tension is unbearable as Michael appears to be on the brink of confessing secrets to Heather, before distracting her with creepy Grimm’s fairy tales and changing the subject. He seems to enjoy the attention and likes manipulating the conversation and teasing her. It feels like he is in control throughout and he’s toying with Heather.

As she continues to meet up with Reave and learns more about her mother’s past, Heather can’t resist using her journalism skills to dig deeper and try to discover what’s going on. Is she putting herself in real danger? Will she be the next victim of the serial killer?

Overall, I really enjoyed this dark, creepy and disturbing serial killer crime thriller, which was cleverly plotted, well written and had great tension. It kept me gripped throughout and I was fully absorbed in the storyline and desperate to find out what was going on! It was an unsettling and, at times, grisly read and I felt on edge throughout, just waiting for something awful to happen!

Heather is a rather intriguing character – she was brave but also foolhardy and was also hiding some secrets. I liked the way she was determined to speak to Reave and learn more about her mother’s past, even if she wasn’t really sure that she wanted to know the truth! Reave was also a compelling character – despite his obvious flaws and appalling crimes, I was curious to learn more about him and his childhood.

This was an excellent and well-crafted story, with lots of twists and turns, and some unusual elements that made it different from your usual thriller. Not being much of a fantasy fan, I haven’t read any of the author’s previous books but I’ll definitely look out for any other crime thrillers that she writes! It would be great if this was a series as I’d love to read more about Heather Evans and DI Ben Parker.

Buy the book

Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Jen Williams lives in London with her partner and their small ridiculous cat. Having been a fan of grisly fairy tales from a young age, these days Jen writes dark unsettling thrillers with strong female leads, as well as character-driven fantasy novels with plenty of adventure and magic. She has twice won the British Fantasy Award for her Winnowing Flame trilogy, and when she’s not writing books she works as a bookseller and a freelance copywriter.

Twitter: @sennydreadful
Instagram: @sennydreadful19

Blog tour

Thanks to Jennifer Harlow at HarperCollins for my copy of Dog Rose Dirt and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.


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