This is one of the earlier books in the Merrily Watkins series, but shows the same quality of writing, that runs through the entire series. The brooding sense of place that Mr Rickman brings to the stories is as good as any from a British writer and at times rivals that of James Lee Byrne's descriptions of Louisiana, which is the highest praise I can give. Along with this tremendous feeling of being in the Herefordshire \ Welsh border countryside, you cannot fail but to be drawn into the life and trials of Merrily Watkins, as she battles both the secular and spiritual. Great reading from an author of great ability. Pick up and enjoy.
I recently discovered the Merrily Watkins series and am working through them in order. I haven't reviewed them all, but I think that now, at number four in the series, some comments are in order. I just love these books! You can enjoy them as character studies (Merrily and Jane are wonderful creations), as really gripping mystery/thrillers, and of course there is also the religious/spiritual angle, which adds greater depth. I must say I do not consider myself a particularly religious person, but having been brought up in the Anglican tradition, I find myself utterly fascinated with all aspects of the deliverance ministry whose existence I did not even know of! Added to all this, the writing is really fine, with striking, atmospheric descriptions, good dialogue and lovely touches of humour. As soon as I finish one I am looking for the next. I wholeheartedly recommend these books, they appeal on so many levels. Try one and maybe you'll be hooked like me!
Merrily Watkins gets her third outing in Phil Rickman’s ongoing series featuring the Church of England’s inaugural ‘Deliverance Consultant’. This time she’s faced with an even more daunting set of challenges – from a dead body in a disused hop-kiln; to a couple who are convinced of their daughter’s possession by an evil spirit; Merrily and her newly in-love teenage daughter Jane, alongside ex-folk musician Lol Robinson, and local contractor Gomer Parry, seek to discover the truth, whilst sundry external forces seem to oppose them at every turn. Rickman’s fourth Merrily Watkins novel is good value – the emotional complexity of his main character becomes ever more evident, and the various strands of the story are tightly woven and compellingly drawn out.
The Merrily Watkins series gets better with each book. This one majors on corrupt officials, vendettas and the world of the Romany community in days gone (not too long) by.
A truly evocative, draw-you-in-and-creep-you-out mystery which, for those who know and love Phil Rickman's stand-alone novels, this time includes Simon St John from 'December' (which almost scared the pants off me at times).
I bought the first book in this series on little more than a whim, it was going for 99p and I thought ah why not. I was hooked within the first few pages and now having read the fourth book in the series they just seem to be getting better. Lol Robinson returns in this book just as Merrily's life seems to be taking a real spiralling downwards. You really fall in love with these characters and feel their pain as well as their happiness, you urge them on and really wish you had friends who were like them. Good honest people who are just trying to do what's right in this strange world we live in. If you have read the three previous books, then you will just love this one and if you haven't read the first three, then go and read them.
This is the fourth of Rickman's books about priest and Deliverance minister Merrily Watkins. And by 'Deliverance' it means that she deals with the apparent supernatural. On this occasion it's a mix of familiar elements: a spirit that refuses to leave a kiln where a brutal murder took place, and a young girl apparently possessed by evil. What Rickman is very good at doing is creating a sense of foreboding, and building a suitably convoluted tale in a small village where the nouveau riche are exerting their financial power over those who have lived in the area for generations. Add to this Romany gypsies and a hint of black magic and you get the general idea.
I'd say Rickman is an author who is consistently good without being consistently great. I think this is the sixth of his books that I have read, and they have all been intriguing and held my attention. I think all of them have been a little too long for the amount of story contained within, but his characters are very good (he has a real flair for dialogue) and the mysteries they become involved in are well-plotted with a fair amount of surprises thrown in.
This is proving to be a very reliable and enjoyable series.
I am reading this book for about the 4th time now, which says it all! I bought it on 23rd May 2012 as part of research on hops for something I was writing and I am now totally hooked on Phil Rickman and the Merrily series. The novels all have an element of crime but tied in with a supernatural twist which you can accept or explain away logically. Merrily is a Christian but she is very human, with her own failings and times of doubt. It is the characters as much as the page turning plot and sub-plots which are so addictive, I get quite emotionally involved with them! This book involves a possible haunting (or is it a PR stunt?) which leads to tragedy, parents who believe their adopted child is possessed by an evil spirit (or is it adolescent trauma?) and the possibility of a love-match (or will God get in the way?) A mix of the atmospheric hop growing border country of the Frome valley and the real world of Hereford Police and single motherhood make this an incredibly believable and fascinating novel. Loved the ending!
I'm totally hooked on this series and am also reading other books by this author. I've had to download and am now reading "December", as I want to find out the context and back history of Prof Levin and Simon St John. I love the way that the characters are developed with each book. This is important because it can take a while to become familiar with new characters in books, and I sometimes find myself delving back through pages to re-familiarise myself with characters... But with this series, it's great because we know the central people already, we know their history and why they respond in certain ways to events .. so consequently I've downloaded the next in the series already! I can't put my finger on what it is about Phil Rickman's work. If I were to say they were ghost stories, that would be too simple a description. A big plus for me is the setting in Wales and the borders, with which I am familiar.. and then?? Well I love the series anyway. I have no criticism to make, other than I'm not finding it easy to read other authors at the moment, as I keep being drawn back to Phil Rickman.
Lol Robinson is living in the Herefordshire countryside and working with Prof Levin who has a recording studio. Lol is starting to write songs again and is toying with the idea of recording some, but it seems like too big a step to make. He is still thinking about Merrily Watkins - Deliverance Consultant to the Diocese of Hereford. Merrily herself has been approached by the mother of a teenage daughter who has suddenly turned against the Church and has started behaving strangely. Merrily is trying to decide whether the girl is possessed or whether it's the normal pains of growing up - writ large.
Merrily is asked to perform an exorcism in a former hop kiln close to where Lol is living. But things are never plain and simple and life is a lot more complicated in the village of Knight's Frome than it at first appears and people are definitely not what they seem. The story gradually builds to an atmospheric and exciting conclusion. This book will keep you reading and will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. There are some interesting characters - Gareth Stock and his wife who own the apparently haunted former hop kiln; Sally and Al Boswell who own and run the hop museum. There are interesting insights into how hop picking used to be carried out and into Romany beliefs.
I found the characters realistic and believable - the half gypsy Layla - who has the personality and appearance of an adult even though she is still a child; big businessman Allan Henry whose only motivations are money and power and Amy's parents trying to do the best they can for their daughter. The story is complex and enthralling and it is good to see Lol and Merrily working together again. This is the fourth book in the Merrily Watkins series and in my opinion one of the best.
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 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.