About a third of a way into this novel I was seriously considering trying something else instead. I didn't know where the plot was going and there we..Show More »re several unpleasant characters with long stretches of dialogue. Gradually, however, it began to grip me and at the end I lay awake way too late into the night to finish listening to it, then woke up the next morning to order the next in the series (which is Midwinter of the Spirit). So, it's a fairly slow start but bear with it because all the plot elements gradually twist together and there are various gripping mysteries that reach a satisfying conclusion.
`Mid Winter of the Spirit' begins with Merrily receiving training for her new post as Diocesan Exorcist. It's insidiously creepy stuff and the subject..Show More » matter changes the reader's context of what is fictional and what is not - blurring the lines between real evil and the artificial villainy fabricated for the sole purpose of selling novels. Scary or not, just think how much fun it would be if they replaced `Hells Kitchen' with `Exorcist School'. We could vote off inept Priests who bungle their exorcisms and end up with pea soup on their vestments.
Once Merrily is declared fit for action she finds herself to be a political pawn in a game of ecumenical chess run by the power hungry Bishop of Hereford and she receives no help from the outward bound Exorcist-in-charge, Canon Dobbs who refuses point blank to even speak to Merrily never mind show her the tricks of the trade. He even goes so far as to ensure that Merrily is exposed to raw, festering evil in the shape of Denzil Joy. It gets worse for Merrily when daughter Jane once again chooses the wrong people to hang out with and is sucked into a Pagan worship group, generating a domestic conflict that almost destroys Merrily's already fragile relationship with her daughter. Aside from this there's the small matter of a malevolent spirit in the Cathedral and Merrily finding herself targeted in the cross hairs of a Satanic group who view her as a vulnerable link in the Church's last line of defence.
A highly original mixture of the `crime-mystery thriller' and `hair-raising chiller' genres and places Phil Rickman way ahead of writers on either side of these borders. A great book.
At some point the snake-handling, talking-in-tongues, jitter-bugging Christian militia across the pond are going to fix their sights firmly on Phil Ri..Show More »ckman and have a good ole book burnin' (not to mention a possible lynchin'). But until such times those us who believe in peace, love, religious tolerance, free dental care and the Great Pumpkin, can continue to enjoy Rickman giving the ultra-right wing fundamentalists a damn good kicking.
The only very slight criticism (a mere teeny weeny micro quibble) I have about this book is that Rickman may have made his two principal Wiccans far too nice and likable. I can tell you from personal experience that some Pagans are extremely grumpy. When I used to have a paper round, a cantankerous old Wiccan frequently complained about my late deliveries and never once gave me a tip (except to advise me on the uses of Witch Hazel as an astringent when I fell off my bike).
As for the book.......nice fluffy Wiccans aside - Rickman's fingerprints are on every page as he ramps up the conflict levels, placing his central character Merrily Watkins into a hostile environment where she is forced to intercede between the pious and dangerously delusional Rev Nick Ellis and the not quite so fluffy Pagan stormtroopers who offer moral support (and herbal tea) to their persecuted coven mates. Merrily's main problem is that she discovers her own faith has more common ground with the opposition than the snarling, mob-handed zealots with whom she shares a God. I've never been comfortable with books that have an underlying moral message but in this case I'll make an exception as Rickman presents the argument that all religions draw their water from the same well and only the ideology and the costumes change.
The Cure of Souls was first time I ever picked up a Phil Rickman with a muted feeling of half hearted enthusiasm. The problem you see was Hops - those..Show More » little flowery things used in the beer brewing process. No matter which way I turned it over in my head I couldn't envision how `hop picking' would ever lend itself to the sort of edge-of-your-seat thriller chillers that Rickman specialises in. As it turned out my fears were groundless as the Cure of Souls was a fantastic read and if Rickman ever decides to write about `Porcelain Thimble Collecting' or `Tapeworm Charming' then I'll be more than happy to bow to his better judgment.
This time round Lol Robinson - who every guitar strumming bloke of a certain age must surely identify with - returns after a strategic absence from `A Crown of Lights' (edged out most likely by Robin the fluffy Wiccan) to play a lead role in the story arc and he teams up with a couple of old lags from `December' - Prof Leven and Simon St John to record his first album since Hazey Jane broke up. Merrily meanwhile is called upon to exorcise a haunted Hop Kiln and suddenly we're off and running on the Rickman Express. The storyboard is studded with all manner of good things; possessed schoolgirls, vengeful gypsies, bent coppers, and to top it all a very naked Annie Howe.
Having written my thoughts on more than a few Phil Rickman novels my hyperbole tank is pretty running low so let's leave it at this - the guy is a superb writer - one of a kind. In fact I intend to commission a statue of him, albeit rather small and made from plasticine but all are welcome to come and pay their respects. Just watch out for those pesky hop bines, they get everywhere.
I love this series of supernatural detective novels, they are set in the borderlands between England and Wales, each in a different place. I have jus..Show More »t been to visit Ludlow on the strength of Phil Rickman's evocative descriptions of the town. It is just as beautiful as he describes it to be and it added an extra dimension to visit the places that his characters appear in and to know about the ghost of Ludlow Castle.
?The Remains of an Altar' is the eighth in the Merrily Watkins series, and finds our favourite Vicar investigating ghostly sightings of the composer, ..Show More »Elgar. Things become complicated by the ritual slaying of a local drugs dealer and daughter Jane imposes her own brand of chaos into the mix (with a helping hand from Gomer) by taking on the council to prevent an ancient Ley (line) from being destroyed. As always, Rickman?s writing is eerily atmospheric and has a distinct `sense of place' - and traces of the dark folklore that once served him so well can still be found embedded deep in the background static of the novel. This is a great book, full of twists and unexpected drops into darkness - peppered throughout with sharp humour and self effacing irony.
Firstly I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook. Having said that I must admit to having reservations about how well this particular story..Show More » lends itself to audio format. It is a complicated story with many characters, and flashbacks to times decades and centuries before the book's present. This can lead to confusion.
The main character, the brilliantly named Merrily Watkins, is trying to ply her wares as a priest and part time exorcist against a background of an increasingly more secular Church, the usual conspiracies of fear and silence, and her need to keep her personal relationships from scandalising the community. In this she is a most believable character, struggling with the mundane to achieve the sublime.
The plot involves a Manor house which has been newly purchased by the Crown. The builder engaged to conduct the refurbishment has been scared away and refuses to return. Merrily is asked to establish whether it there are earthly or spiritual disturbances at work.
When you throw in a fistful of strange local characters, the Knights Templar and their nearby Church, and the complex life that Merrily herself lives, it is easy to see how the story becomes complicated and a little hard to follow at times. The reading is good though, and well paced.
I would recommend this audiobook and have given it three stars though I would readily accept that it possibly deserves three and a half.
I love the Merrily Watkins series by Phil Rickman and I've been waiting for ages for another one to be
added to the Audible list. It was not a d..Show More »isappointment. I was back in Ledwardine again. The characters are
well drawn, the description of place vivid, and the plot is always interesting. As well, the series is
beautifully read by Emma Powell.
I have read all the Merrily Watkins series but wanted something to listen to at night, wasn't too sure at first whether the narrator would annoy me bu..Show More »t I got used to her voice and found it very relaxing in the end. Enjoyable series.
I love this series and I hope that there are many more to come and that they are all read by Emma Powell. (Actually, all his books are well read a..Show More »nd I wonder if the author has some say in choosing the readers). I love the characters, the descriptions of place, and of course the plots which keep one foot planted in the real world, and particularly the place of women in that world, and the other in a much scarier, darker world of fairy tales and old beliefs which the author makes all too believable.