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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for Midwinter but for any time you want a good read
To start, if I may, with a question: why on Earth doesn't this author have a higher profile? I'd never even heard of him until I read "The Chalice", having spotted a copy on a shop bookshelf and, being interested in the Glastonbury legends, decided to buy the book. It turned out to be a fascinating and gripping read, a creepy and wholly believeable story...
Published on 8 Aug 2000

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars not my cup of tea
just could not get into this book and the characters and having a teenage girl no thank i need to get away from teenagers
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer


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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for Midwinter but for any time you want a good read, 8 Aug 2000
By A Customer
To start, if I may, with a question: why on Earth doesn't this author have a higher profile? I'd never even heard of him until I read "The Chalice", having spotted a copy on a shop bookshelf and, being interested in the Glastonbury legends, decided to buy the book. It turned out to be a fascinating and gripping read, a creepy and wholly believeable story about the dark and light influences of Glastonbury, full of little twists and turns in the plot that made anything possible but nothing predictable. I decided that here was an author with class and individuality (and he's British to boot!).
Having devoured "The Chalice" I then found "Midwinter of the Spirit" on the shelves, and I enjoyed this book so much that I've now purchased the whole back catalogue of this author's work on the strength of it, and I've not been disappointed with any of them.
"Midwinter of the Spirit" is the second in a series of books based around the character of Merrily Watkins, a divorced mother of a teenage daughter, who has become a priest and is trying to get her life together spiritually and practically. On the way along her path, she gets involved in a few adventures and mysteries. No, this isn't Father Brown or the Vicar of Dibley we are talking about here, Merrily is as real and as humanly flawed as any of us, and therein lies a great deal of her appeal.
Having survived her introduction (read the first Merrily book, "The Wine of Angels", recommended!) to life in a seemingly normal village that is actually seething with an undercurrent of mystery, murder, complex relationships and other peculiar happenings (just like real life), Merrily decides to take on the job of exorcist - as you do. This could have been a dicy theme to tackle because everyone has read the book or seen the film of The Exorcist, and it takes a brave man (or woman) to write another book on such a theme. Preconceptions could have killed this book stone dead in the water, so it says much for the skills of the writer - and the confidence and sanity of his publisher - that "Midwinter of the Spirit" survived to see the light of day.
Whereas in Blatty's book we are showered page after page with horror, gore and violation at its most shocking and brutal, here is a subtlety of evil that is far more convincing and, in the final analysis, far more disturbing than anything a common or garden horror-fiction author could throw at us. This book contains human dilemmas, human errors and human solutions, so while there is no doubt that the supernatural is involved here, not at any point does the book become tedious, predictable in its outcome or too obviously reliant on the usual "unexplained" elements to keep the flow going. Maybe because I'm a woman I sort of got under the skin of Merrily as I read, and her problems became my problems. How to deal with some thoroughly unpleasant characters, dead and dying; shades from the past reaching out to mingle with and direct events in the present; touches of black magic and flashes of firebright goodness; and finally the careful manipulation of the reader's own thoughts until you can't tell who the good guys are from the bad (yes, I was caught out). Plus a healthy helping of teenage angst and wisdom (daughter Jane is a terrific character and far more true to life than many fictional teenagers), human vulnerabilities and egoism kept me hooked from the first page to the final full stop. I found myself really caring about Merrily and her allies, and the outcome, and I am just glad that she has survived to feature in the next book, which I'm already eager to read. If women priests really are like Merrily, then the church has a bright future!
What I like particularly about Rickman is his style of writing - nothing pretentious here, or forced. His characters are rounded and believeable, his prose flows easily and contains much subtle humour - which is something a lot of thrillers are missing. Never forget the human element: even in tragedy there can often be found a spark of humour. The plots are not far fetched, and this is what I found most appealing about the books in general. I love authors like Stephen King, but after I've finished reading I tend to think, "God that was scary - but at least it's only a book." Somehow you can believe that everything that happens in Rickman's books could easily happen in real life - and maybe that's the trick. What I also like is that there are little links between many of the books - characters that turn up in one get a mention in another, so though the books are not exactly related in the obvious way there are references to characters and situations that serve to make the whole collection of Ricknan's works extremely authentic. You wouldn't be surprised to pop into your local and see the Rev. Merrily Watkins musing over a pint with cigarette in hand, or to meet any one of his musician characters next time you entered a studio.
These books are about real people and believeably real situations and I just hope that Rickman continues to write because it's about time we had another inventive and original British author regularly and reliably filling the shelves ...
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, chilling and disturbing, 25 Aug 2000
By 
This is my first Phil Rickman novel, but certainly won't be my last. I've always been a bit sceptical about this horror / mystic / occult genre, but this novel has changed my mind. What makes it such a compelling read is the credibility and development of the characters. Fantastic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Spirit is willing, 31 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Midwinter of the Spirit (MERRILY WATKINS SERIES) (Kindle Edition)
I'm currently rereading the entire series of the Merrily Watkins books one after the other, because I couldn't believe how good they were first time around. This is the second book featuring these fabulous characters, and it starts with Merrily in training to be the exorcist (deliverance consultant) for the Hereford diocese. It is the new Bishop of Hereford (Mick Hunter) who has put her into the position, one which she has doubts she can manage.

Properly installed now as Priest in charge at her own parish of Ledwardine, but with Deliverance on the side, you just know she's going to struggle. Particularly when it seems the previous incumbent, Dobbs appears dead set against her. There are wonderful new characters here to add to those we were introduced to in Wine of Angels, Sophie Hill the bishop's secretary and the very impressive Athena White.

There are all sorts of issues brought up in this book, the Anglican church's view on deliverance being just the start. Church politics are addressed, the role of women priests and the relationships between all the main protagonists. All of this is handled beautifully by a fabulous author who interweaves real menace into the plot. Subtexts of horror and witchcraft and pagan worship are thrown into the mix and the whole thing is brought to a satisfying conclusion.

I find these books genuinely creepy and love the characters, it is even better the second time around.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lasting quality, 17 Oct 2010
Phil Rickman looks set to last to me. This book is thoroughly satisfying. It coheres, main plot and sub plots weave seemingly effortlessly around each other. The dialogue WORKS...a rare ability. Each character has his or her own individual voice. The novel is self-explanatory where it needs to be, educating us about the different categories of haunting before we encounter some of them. It is a delight to read something termed a "spiritual thriller" both because such subject-matter intelligently and sensitively treated is rare in itself, and because it is a relief if you have encountered any such disturbance to find it written about, and well.
Having lived and worked in Hereford I found the evocation of the place, and of the cathedral superb, and all his research was accurate. It is obviously a treasure trove for writing about church matters, and continues to be inspiring in its conflicts. I think his understanding of church politics and the way all belief-based institutions are infiltrated,(not just in the obvious ways) extremely salient. I think personally he is a little harsh on Evangelical Anglicans, many of whom are delightful, and some of whom do excellent and demanding work in the areas he describes. I think he underestimates the potential subtlety and intelligence in these emphases.
Fascinated by the way that Merrily Watkins is seen as initially hampered by the lack of female tradition in the CHurch, but is acknowledged as havin trodden the hard path of having started one off, by the end of the novel.
My personal favourite of the novels of his I have read so far. Looking forward to reading more.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In the Bleak Mid-Winter..., 23 Mar 2001
By 
Mr. M. A. Denton "Professor Yaffle" (Belper, Derbyshire, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I love this book. Whereas it doesn't exactly fit into the horror genre that it seems to be accredited with, it does have it's fair share of darkness and chills. The deep preparation that must have been involved in the writing of this book is obvious. Rickman has dealt with a slightly outdated theological mode and brought it alive (ressurrected it, as it were...)and made it relevant to our cynical modern spirituality. The mixture of victim and aggressor that lies within Merrily Watkins makes for a thoroughly charming character. The Bishop Mick Hunter is fairly typical as a protagonist, but as they say, stereotypes have to have a basis in truth. If your imagination can cope with having to work a bit harder than usual, then this book will be one of the most enjoyable you'll have read for some time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Crafted., 19 Aug 2011
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This review is from: Midwinter of the Spirit (MERRILY WATKINS SERIES) (Kindle Edition)
This book continues the saga of Merrily Watkins as she adjusts, if she ever can, to her new role as a rural vicar.
She bumbles along getting many things wrong as she also takes on the role of diocese exorcist. She is targetted by an array of nasty characters who try and get to her through her daughter Jan. The book progresses and we slowly learn that the bad guys are more organised than you would ever think and the book ends with a chilling climax. This all takes place in a realistic background including Hereford Cathedral. A creepy book indeed and a great read !
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Midwinter sends Shivers, 16 Aug 2011
By 
Gloria Swansong (Castle Donington, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Midwinter of the Spirit (MERRILY WATKINS SERIES) (Kindle Edition)
The second in the Merrily Watkins series is now safely installed on my Kindle while my hardback sits on the bookshelf. Why two copies? Because I rate this author highly. Why on earth he is not more popular is mystifying. Great storylines, great characters and actually the most approachable of writers, he is unique!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr Rickman does it again, 15 Jan 2000
In this book Phil Rickman follows his tried and tested formula. He uses a few established characters and pitches them against evil in a spiritual battle. Sometimes there is little organised religion involved, but in this instance the story revolves around Rev. Merrily Watkins who has recently taken a 'Deliverance' course - the modern term for exorcism. Hindered by her predesessors refusal to talk to her and her teenage daughter being, well, a teenage daughter, she launches into a minefield of 'situations' around Herefordshire.
I love the way Phil Rickman writes. Not too much description, he allow you to picture it yourself. I like the continuity of regular characters, and the way the evolve from their previous experiences. Some characters are similar (e.g. Joe Powys/Laurence Robinson, Fay Morrison/Merrily Watkins) he favours strong, but vunerable career women and outwardly weak, inwardly brave men. The characters become very real, you feel you could hire from Gomer Parry Plant Hire, listen to Hazey Jane's last album or buy The Old Golden Land by Joe Powys.
If you like British horror with more than a liberal dab of earth mysteries you can't fail to enjoy this book.
Mr Rickman can't write them fast enough!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 7 April 2001
By A Customer
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I polished this book if in about 10 days. Sometimes sequels fall flat and leave you disappointed but not this one. I particularly appreciated the added darkness of this story. Pick up a Phil Rickman book and you'll be a fan for life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Never fails, 13 Aug 2012
This review is from: Midwinter of the Spirit (MERRILY WATKINS SERIES) (Kindle Edition)
This is my second Phil Rickman novel and so far I can't fault this author, yet another brilliant read. I now feel like I know Merrily, Jane and even Lol and I can't wait for their next adventure. A great mixture of paranormal, romance, mystery, paganism and real life the story kept me gripped to the end. If you haven't yet read a Phil Rickman then you are missing out on a great author and read so try one!!
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