Speak of the Devil by Rose Wilding
Here we are once again shining the spotlight on a brand-new author and this time around we have for you a brilliantly tangled-up thriller, with a decapitated narcissist and seven women who rightfully hated him at its centre.
Rose Wilding’s debut, Speak of the Devil, absolutely drips with hatred, toxicity, virtuous vengeance, and female solidarity. It is dark, well-constructed and brimming with realness, and it’s a real pleasure to unravel. Since it largely revolves around a truly terrible man’s treatment of women, it is worth mentioning that major themes include manipulation, physical and emotional abuse, and some transphobia. The author never shies away from the insidious ways in which society traps women in damaging situations and the courage it takes for them to wrestle back control of their own lives. Most of all, though, it is about an awful misogynist getting very much what is coming to him… in grippingly gruesome fashion.
We begin with a severed head and seven women in a hotel room. The head was once part of a man named Jamie Spellman, and Jamie Spellman was a man whose death will come as welcome news to many… and to none more than these seven women. Jamie, an undeniably charismatic scumbag, and scientist, made a career of mistreating just about every woman with whom he crossed paths. He even succeeded in making the mistreatment of women part of his job. Intimidating, betraying, gaslighting and generally being cruel were everyday elements of his life. No one is grieving his demise.
Each of the women – there’s Jaime’s wife, his pregnant lover, his best friend, his ex, the journalist who was determined to bring him down, the woman who raised him and the woman who survived him – has their own reason for wanting him dead. One of them did it and each of them has a hunch who is responsible. But nobody is admitting to it. These women are not interested in finding the culprit for the sake of justice: if they’re going to keep ahead of the police and ensure that Jaime’s murder gets tucked away while they all move on with their lives, as it should and as they should, they’ll need to know who did it so they can keep each other safe. In order to do that they must get to the bottom of their individual traumatic histories with this man.
And therein lies the most enjoyable aspect of this book. Figuring out who each of these women is to Jaime, what he has done to each of them, how they might be connected with each other and whose motive was strong enough to prompt an exceptionally violent act of revenge is a treat for every armchair detective. By frequently switching the point of view and by delving gutsily into the painful history of each woman, Wilding crafts an enthralling narrative that fulfils the dual function of expressing so much female anger and pain and thoroughly entertaining the reader.
All in all, aside from being just an excellent mystery, Speak of the Devil is an unflinching portrait of the love and loyalty that can grow from the despicable deeds of one loathsome man… one loathsome man who so deserved to get his head cut right off.
Wonderful, complex characters, compelling dynamics and skilled manoeuvring and excellent writing make for an especially thoughtful and multi-layered literary thriller that will keep you on edge all the way to its heart-rending conclusion… As soon as you finish it, you’ll be wanting more from Rose Wilding.
About the Author
Rose Wilding is a queer, working class writer from Newcastle Upon Tyne. She has an MA in creative writing from The University of Manchester, where she was mentored by Jeanette Winterson. She likes drinking coffee, reading feminist sci-fi and showing off her chihuahuas on Instagram. This is her first novel.