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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The smile of a reader
In this the seventh of his Merrily Watkins novels, Phil Rickman once again proves that you really can't get too much of a good thing. While The Smile of a Ghost does not find the Rev. Merrily Watkins in such dire or dark supernatural peril she has contended with previously, the demons she must face are just as chilling -- the possible elimination of her very role as...
Published on 17 Nov 2005 by T. Williams

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10 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Been there, done that.
Well it had to happen.......Phil Rickman finally writes an iffy novel. Mr Rickman, and his alter ego Will Kingdom, has been a personal favourite for many years and I've always looked forward to each new book but when I finished this one I just........shrugged. It's not bad but it is terribly familiar - a bit of new age mysticism, a dubious suicide, a dash of local...
Published on 13 July 2006 by M. Marshall


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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The smile of a reader, 17 Nov 2005
By 
T. Williams (Mariposa, California United States) - See all my reviews
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In this the seventh of his Merrily Watkins novels, Phil Rickman once again proves that you really can't get too much of a good thing. While The Smile of a Ghost does not find the Rev. Merrily Watkins in such dire or dark supernatural peril she has contended with previously, the demons she must face are just as chilling -- the possible elimination of her very role as Deliverance Minister by modernizing forces in the Church as well as her own self-doubt. And this crisis couldn't have come at a worse time -- in the midst of a tragic trend of teen suicides, possibly influenced by a 12th century ghost and a very hauntingly real "ghost" of sorts from Merrily's Goth days of the more recent past.
In spite of this novel's thematic seriousness, Rickman manages to weave subtle strands of wit and humor throughout, and his astounding facility with character and dialogue only gets better with each book. Through his superb crafting of narrative perspective, the personalities of Rickman's characters' seem to hijack their way from chapter to chapter with an amazing fluidity that makes the book very hard to put down.
If you're a regular reader of Rickman's novels, this newest one will not disappoint. If you're new to the novels of Phil Rickman, you're in for a treat. Either way, The Smile of a Ghost will leave a reader smiling.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anticipated more than Dan Brown!, 4 Jun 2006
I've read every one of Phil Rickman's / Will Kingdom's books and have found them utterly un-put-downable. I'd already started a Dan Brown when Mr Rickman's latest offering dropped through the letter box, but Dan was discarded in favour of Phil. As usual, there is the careful crafting of an intricate story, with a deceptively slow start. It's a case of drip, drip, drip, FLOOD! with this book. A lot happens very quickly in the last few chapters and it took a while to decipher all the connections. This was very good, but not quite Mr Rickman's best offering. It is still well worth buying & I've already recommended it to my friends. I'm disappointed that I've already finished the book and I look forward to the next offering.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Psycho-geography on the Border, 7 May 2006
The Smile of a Ghost is another page-turner from Phil Rickman who continues to play with his "did or didn't the paranormal cause the murder" theme. The psycho-geographical character this time is Ludlow. Meanwhile poor Merrily has an added sinister threat to contend with. New Labour managerialism and psycho-babble has finally caught up with the Church of England in the form of the Diocesan Deliverance Advisory Panel.

As ever the author has his finger on the pulse of contemporary society, exploring uncomfortable themes with a deftness of touch:-the dangers of internet chat-rooms; the fate of active policemen forced into retirement;teenage depression and the role of religion in an increasingly secular society, prone to turn more to New-Age self-help books than to God. And the framework is all there, proving as always that truth is often stranger than fiction.....
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rickman gets better each time, 3 Mar 2006
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If you are a firm fan of Merrily Watkins (or indeed Rickman in general) you will not be disappointed by this luxuriously long, enticing book. If you're a Watkins virgin, put the kettle on, unplug the phone and look forward to a gripping read. I keep thinking that Rickman has surpassed himself with his novels as they come out, and then he surprises us yet again.
This story is mainly based in Ludlow around some mysterious deaths which have taken place; however as usual the paranormal and the criminal is interjected with commonplace problems that Merrily Watkins, vicar, exorcist, lover of musicion Lol Robinson and mother of tempestuous teenager Jane, faces at work and in her private life, which brings the reader back to earth with a non-instrusive bump. The characters are, as always, fantastically drawn and the dialogue is so real you can hear it in your head. The twist at the end is both horrifying and deeply saddening. Don't miss it!
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars super and natural, 9 Jun 2007
By 
Julia Walker (NY Finger Lakes) - See all my reviews
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If I had known before I bought the first Merrily Watkins novel (The Wine of Angels) that Merrily is an exorcist, I probably would have saved my money. But I didn't know, and now I'm hooked.

The characters are fabulous - Merrily, the sometimes hapless vicar; Jane, the pagan daughter; Gomer, the archetypal local; Lol, the fragile folk-rock mystery. Any and all of these will fix your attention and concern, to say nothing of a wide array of secondary characters and ghosts. OK, the ghosts sound hard to take, but Rickman carefully constructs Merrily's vocation, making the line between spiritual work and work with spirits very faint indeed. The vicar's faith is remarkably practical and so are most of the problems she faces.

The plots grow out of the settings on the Welsh border, exquisitely detailed in all the books. In Smile of a Ghost, the town of Ludlow becomes another character, in some ways the principal victim. Of all the books, this one has the most subtly integrated element of the supernatural: you can take it or leave it.

If the exorcist plot makes you nervous, start with this book and see if your concerned affection for Merrily, Lol, Jane and others doesn't over-come your hesitation.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of the Merrily series, 19 Nov 2005
By 
K. MacAlister (Richmond, VA, USA) - See all my reviews
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Smile of a Ghost is undoubtedly the best of the Merrily Watkins series--and the best of all Rickman's books. Though there is a slight paranormal flavor, the book works best as a straight mystery, one involving many different people and their actions. Mr. Rickman takes these strands and weaves them together beautifully to the final outcome. The main character, the Rev. Merrily Watkins is still charming but slightly anxious in her role as Diocesan Exorcist, and the scenes involving church politics are spot on. Secondary characters are not relegated to "supporting role" status but are integral to the plot. I started reading on a Thursday afternoon and finished it the next day--it's that kind of book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lot of smile not enough ghost..., 17 Jan 2006
By 
Faerynuff (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
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If you are a follower of Merrily Watkins, the neurotic exorcist, you will enjoy the latest Rickman offering The Smile of a Ghost. I am and I did. It seemed to me that Rickman has toned down the trademark narrative chopping (just getting into one scene then being thrown into another). I sense someone has told him to tone down another trait whereby he starts a chapter in the middle of a consversation and even a page in you have no idea who's speaking, what and why. This has proved offputting for several people I've recommended the books to.
I think this has been the best of the series in terms of plot. Delicious twists that were largely unexpected and superb scene setting.
The characters in the book have matured: Merrily has stopped being so irritatingly neurotic and Lol finally got a backbone. Jane still unrealistically illustrated with a sophisticated wit far beyond her years but great minor characters and sublime dialogue which is what makes the book. It is absolutely spot on - I'm not sure any other writer does it better.
Only criticisms: not enough spooky stuff (when he does spooky Rickman is the best at that too...) and not enough Gomer Parry (I likes 'im see).
If you're not a Merrily Watkins follower I suggest you buy all the back copies and snuggle up in a comfy chair. You're in for a treat.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the boundary, 14 Jan 2006
By 
Meredith B. Handspicker "preacher teacher" (North Bennington, VT USA) - See all my reviews
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The latest of the Merrily Watkins series is the best. Rickman writes on the boundary beween the rational and the non-rational, and the issues are different every time. Best of all the story, however eerie, is believable. In this book Ludlow and its castle become characters in the story. Funny thing about the series: the characters are the kind of folk one wants to visit with. Here as usual one is torn between wanting to spend more time with them and wanting to turn the page and discover where one is going next. What a delicious dilemma for us readers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ghosts in Ludlow, 27 July 2010
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Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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Ludlow in Shropshire is a really atmospheric town and Phil Rickman has captured this atmosphere in this enthralling story. Merrily Watkins has been told she must work with a colleague - Canon Sian Callaghan-Clark - and a psychiatrist - Nigel Saltash. Everything she is asked to do in the way of Deliverance must be referred to them first before any action is taken. Merrily is not happy about this as she is used to working on her own. Andy Mumford - newly retired police officer has his own problems adjusting to his changed status. When his nephew falls from Ludlow Castle and is killed he contacts Merrily because he feels something strange is happening in the town.

There are ghosts enough to satisfy the most avid ghost hunter in Ludlow as well as other - perhaps evil - influences. The Bishop of Hereford asks Merrily to look into the increasingly strange happenings in the town on an unofficial basis because no one wants a fuss made. This leads Merrily into many strange and dangerous situations where no one's motives are clear. All the familiar series characters are here - Lol Robinson, recently returned to Ledwardine and living in Lucy Devenish's old cottage; Jane - Merrily's teenage daughter; Sophie - the Bishop's secretary and Frannie Bliss - maverick detective.

I found this seventh episode in the Merrily Watkins series to be every bit as good as the previous six and it kept me reading late at night to finish it - even though I have read it before when it was first published. Each of the books in the series can be read as a stand-alone novel but it adds an extra depth to your reading if you have read the previous instalments. I recommend both this book and the series as a whole to anyone who likes an extra dimension to their crime novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Read, 24 Mar 2014
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Thoroughly enjoyed this book, started reading Phil Rickman just after Christmas and have read 6 in this series so far. Good storyline, keeps you interested and I am looking forward to reading the next one.
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The Smile of a Ghost (Merrily Watkins 7) (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)
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