Horror Book Review – The Devil’s Inn by David Watkins

The Devil’s Inn is a horror story by British author, David Watkins. David is from Devon, where he lives with his wife, two sons and his dog. David works as a teacher by day and fills his spare time with writing. Away from The Devil’s Inn, he has also written The Original’s Return and The Original’s Retribution, two parts of an ongoing series. On top of that he has had a short story called Presents of Mind published in a collection called When Red Snow Melts.

The Devil's Inn

There is a pub in the heart of Dartmoor where a fire has burned every day for over one hundred and fifty years. It is said the fire never goes out. It is said that if it does, The Devil will appear and claim the souls of all inside. Tonight, seven strangers are stranded there during a fierce snowstorm.

Tonight, the fire will go out…..

The Devil’s Inn is a haunting story that focuses initially on a young couple called Mark and Elana. We join them in their car as they head off for the weekend. En route, they plan to pick up Mark’s best friend James as they head off to visit their friend in Devon. A bit of banter in the car suggests Elana doesn’t like James very much. When James is picked up and joins them in the car, you kind of get a feel of why. He is boisterous, a little obnoxious – one of those annoying extroverts who don’t ever have an internal conversation. You know the type.

As they head off on their road trip, you get a real sense of the friendship between Mark and James. A bit of winding each other up, a lot of inside jokes, James going a bit far on occasion and Mark telling him to sort himself out. All while Elana shakes her head in annoyance in the passenger seat. James, seemingly oblivious to Elana’s feelings towards him, talks to her like normal, and when they stop for food on the way, calls shotgun on the passenger seat on their way back to the car. These little things annoy Elana, she sees it as childish and you get a sense of jealousy too in regards to Mark and James’ relationship. A good reflection of that is the image of her demoted to the back seat in their car

James continues his annoying ways by taking control of the stereo and flicking through cd after cd and throwing them back in the glove box without their cases. To be fair, he has good taste in music as he blares through Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin. As they get within an hour or so of where they are going they realise they have a problem. Their Sat Nav seems to be taking them the wrong direction and, to correct their course, they follow a road that will take them over Dartmoor. Rightfully, they are a bit concerned about this as Dartmoor is notorious for quick changing weather, remoteness and dangerous landscapes but they have little choice.

The Devil's Inn

While James, Mark and Elana start the most treacherous leg of their journey, we meet Jeff McCarthy. Jeff and his wife Sandra are out walking on the moors. Sandra, an avid walker and attractive women is having a wonderful time. Jeff? Not so much. A bit overweight, a lot grumpy, Jeff walks to impress his wife. He is aware that he is punching above his weight in that department and, in the interest of keeping similar interests, joins her long walks. He then spends the time hating it and feeling bitter.

As they walk, Sandra sees a man up on one of the hills but he quickly disappears. She shrugs it off among Jeff’s complaints and a rapidly descending spot of low cloud signalling incoming bad weather. She tries to appease Jeff by pointing out that if they hurry up, there is a pub not too far away where they can hold up during the bad weather. With much grumbling, they head off but then both see a figure ahead of them on a hill. Sandra notices he is wearing monk’s robes though Jeff doesn’t really care and dismisses it with his heart now solely set on the pub in his near future

James, Mark and Elana are crossing the moors now and run in to the same bad weather. They are getting cold and the weather is getting worse. A quick toilet stop sees them experience a little weirdness too. Elana sees a dark figure up on a hillside and Mark, while relieving himself behind a bush hears what sounds like a drum beat. An old military style drummer boy kind of noise. He follows it and falls down a bank but, when he eventually gets back to the car he is the only one who heard it. Back in the car and the first flakes of snow start to fall, their phones have no signal and visibility is next to nothing as the snow fall speeds up. Thankfully, ahead of them, they finally find some respite. They have found a pub.

The Devil's Inn

Jeff and Sandra are also at the pub and we meet the owner, Bruce Singer and his wife, Saran. They are a nice couple and are very welcoming, making sure everyone gets warm and gets some food inside them. We also meet a local called Adam who is a little more abrupt with the newcomers. Especially with Jeff and James as they pour scorn over the local tales and folk stories.

One such story is the current source of their heat. The fire. Apparently it has burned for over 200 years, never once going out because if it does, the devil will appear to claim all inside. Adam leaves angrily and a few more weird happenings take place like James seeing a monk watching him as he fetches the bags from the car. We also get a key bit of news. Saran explains to Bruce that the delivery guy didn’t come.

They are almost out of firewood. There isn’t enough to last until morning. The fire is going to go out.

The sudden arrival of 12 monks surrounding the pub have people worried that their could be some truth to these old wives tales. Most just believe it is Adam and some locals playing a trick on the silly tourists. The monks chant “He Is Coming” repeatedly and the fire burns lower and lower.

A knock on the door and a cry for help wakes everybody back up and Adam falls through the door. He is frozen and feels weak so they try to help him but he seems different. He mocks them and then, inexplicably starts to reveal secrets about them. Adam tells Mark that James and Elana had sexual relations when she was 18 (long before she met Mark) and he tells Jeff about his wives lust for another female walker she knows. Adam knows things and is taking extreme pleasure in sowing discontent among the travellers.

As he laughs and introduces himself he reveals he is no longer Adam, he is something else. He is the devil. This brings more mockery from James and Jeff. Suddenly, with a swipe of a fire axe, unAdam tears through the throat of Jeff leaving him bleeding out on the floor. The Devil is in The Devil’s Inn. What happens next is a wonderful mix of old school horror story and psychological mind games.

The Devil's Inn

The pub is surrounded by monks and even if they could get outside, the weather would kill them. They run, they hide and they bar themselves in rooms. They have little chance of survival without fighting back but how do you kill The Devil and his disciples? Is there any hope of surviving this long, bleak night? Is any of this real or are they the victim of some local nutters?

You will need to read the book to see how it all pans out and I really strongly suggest you do. The Devil’s Inn is a fascinating story set in a an almost mystical location. I have been to Dartmoor myself many times and the weather changes, the hazards – it is all very real. I am yet to see the devil there but if he were to appear somewhere in the UK, I can imagine Dartmoor being a prime landing point. David Watkins style of writing is really enjoyable and I found it very difficult to not just read the whole book in one night. The characters are all developed carefully and immaculately. They will be very identifiable. There is a strong chance we all have a Jeff or James or Elana in our lives somewhere.

I found it very easy to imagine the way these characters looked and acted which is testament to the way they were brought to life by the author. The story is interesting and I love how the traditional beliefs are blended in with little touches of fantasy to enhance them. There is plenty of gore and gruesome death on offer to please fans of that and even more psychological tension. A lot of this is brought by Adam (aka the devil) with his dangerous game playing and almost impish cheek mixed with devastating destruction. You also have 12 monks in robes surrounding a pub in the middle of the night which is scary enough. Christ, imagine seeing that outside your local waterhole?

The Devil’s Inn is a fantastic story. It is really well written and doesn’t allow for a minute of boredom. Strong characters mix in with a strong location in a story that is packed full of suspense and creepiness. An absolute must read. Oh, and I love the photographic design of the book which gives you a feel of desolation before you even reach page 1. They are beautifully put together.

Find out more about David and his writings on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and at his author pages on Amazon and Goodreads. You can pick up The Devil’s Inn and more of his work from the Amazon links below. I urge you to do so – they guy is a talented writer.

The Devil's Inn by David Watkins
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