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Black Eyed Dog - He Called At My Door,
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This review is from: The Prayer of the Night Shepherd (Merrily Watkins Mysteries) (Paperback)
One of the principal rules of ensuring a long running genre series retains its stamina and mass appeal is knowing the precise moment to change the dynamic. Avoidance of this fact inevitably results in character stagnation, plot repetition and eventual banishment to the twilight zone of a publishers back catalogue. Thankfully Rickman is a canny enough writer to realise Merrily can't go tilting at (haunted) windmills in every book and in `The Prayer of the Night Shepherd' he wisely reins in the supernatural elements of previous novels and gives his characters breathing space to evolve. Not to say that Rickman has stripped the novel of all things that go-bump-in-the-night. Far from it, but there is a more subtle sleight-of-hand approach to the unquiet dead this time around, allowing the focus of the story to develop into a stylish who-done-it mystery that would do credit to Sherlock Holmes whose creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle features prominently in the story line.
The central thrust of the plot concerns the legend of a `Black Dog' whose unwelcome appearance foretells of a death in a local family and is attributed to be the inspiration for `The Hound of the Baskervilles'. Meanwhile Merrily is becoming the focal point of alleged miracle working when a woman claims to have been cured of cancer at a meditation and prayer session. Another disturbing plot strand involves children who kill - and it's here that Lol Robinson finally emerges from the shadows of Merrily's cassock to show his true mettle. These stories and other curious tales wind around each other like a nest of hissing serpents - and as you would expect there is a twist of Chubby Checker proportions at the finale.
Another excellent book from Phil Rickman in the Merrily Watkin's Deliverance Procedurals.