When autumn storms blast Hereford, centuries-old human bones are found among the roots of a blown down tree. At the nearby Cathedral, another storm is building around a new bishop who believes that the Church must phase out irrelevant archaic practices.
Not good news for Merrily Watkins, consultant on the paranormal. Especially as she's now presented with the job at its most medieval. A rambling 12th-century house is thought to be haunted. Although its new owners don't believe in ghosts, they do believe in the need for exorcism.
Merrily's discovery of the house's links with the medieval legend of a man who resisted mortality threatens to expose the hidden history of a more modern cult and its trail of insidious abuse.
©2015 Phil Rickman (P)2016 Isis Publishing Ltd
I like mysteries (particularly British ones, historical fiction and nonfiction, science fiction and fantasy.
I love the Merrily Watkins series but I would beg you if you have not read the prior books in the series that you do not start here. It is not as though you really need to know all of the backstory of Merrily and Lol and Gomer Perry, but it would add to the pleasure of a book that isn't completely horror or completely mystery.
Things are changing at the Hereford Cathedral. Merrily's affable Bishop has retired and the new Bishop is a reformer. In fact he is a fire and brimstone modernist who is calculating how much the Church could make out of selling the 15th Century Vicage of Ledwardine and put the Merrily and her daughter in a semi-detached on a local estate. He also thinks that the Church would do quite well without the post of Diocesan Exocist, Merrily's night job.
So far so good. But while Merrily is coping with these changes as well as her first attempt at calming an interfaith psychic disturbance, there is also the mystery of a stolen archaeological artifact and a couple of murders, as well as an upcoming shake up in Gaol Street. And the ancient, kittenish Miss Athena White meets Huw Owain
Many of the characters in this book have appeared in prior books by Rickman, he even gives a nod by reference to his latest non-Merrily novel--Night After Night. If you know and love the books grab this. If you don't know and love the books yet, go for the first one The Wine of Angels (Merrily Watkins Mysteries).
I bought both the hardcover and the audible book-- The hardcover to put on my shelf and the Audible because I love Emma Powell's narration. She does a good job here as she always does, with these books.
Although a fan of these books, I actually cannot stand the Merrily character with her ceaseless reaching for something to feel guilty about while she bumbles ineffectually around rarely sleeping and even more rarely eating and never accomplishing anything. It's the other characters who keep bringing me back. But everything and everybody fell flat in this latest effort (Gomer never even showed up). Practically every paragraph ended with a cliffhanger, but only one thread is untangled (at least I guess it was, the plot is really muddled). I like for a teensy bit cleaner resolution in my fiction. There were at least five major plot points that were brought up and left hanging, an obvious and rather cheap ploy on the part of an author who is already a big seller. Rather than reach a conclusion after nearly 15 hours, this book just fizzles out and stops.
In other words, don't bother. Re-read one of the old ones.
I'd place it in the upper 30%.
The Merrily Watkins series is very entertaining. The characters come very much to life. Rickman tends to go into great detail in the telling of his stories, often with more than one plot simultaneously, but in the end he pulls them all together and presents a neatly packaged ending.
I've listened to all of the books in the series which are narrated by Emma Powell. She is one of the best narrators I've ever heard - absolutely amazing.
Yes, pretty much.
Absolutely, though I think this series in particular is best enjoyed in the order it was written. The characters are well developed, but they definitely develop in time. The world they inhabit is evocatively drawn. You care about both the people and the place, and walk away with quite a lot to ponder over.
I don't have a favorite, but in this book I was pleased to see Merrily's daughter Jane evolve into a wiser, more self-reflexive person. As always, I enjoy expanding my sense of Huw Owen. I also appreciated the deeper sense of Athena/Anthea White. I found the Aisha Malick character very powerful, for someone who never truly appears in a scene, and her father broke my heart.
All of it, I think. She embodies (envoices?) Merrily, Huw, Sophie and Franny Bliss to a degree it's hard to imagine them with any other voice. Her performances of the other characters is equally good, if not quite as distinctive.
There were a lot of powerful moments in this book. Various events in the family drama at Kumarrow where wrenching and powerful, and the various elements of generation, religion, culture and supernatural all blended to create a feeling of tight unease and growing desperation. The scene in the chapel at Lime Hill wasn't spectacular, event-wise, but it was moving in its depiction of Merrily reaching a place where she was able to see Athena as a fragile person, rather than the deadly spider in the corner. Each one-on-one encounter between Franny Bliss and Charlie Howe strikes me viscerally, not because of Franny's mastery of the event, but because repeatedly, the bad guy wins. And it feels true in my gut.
This book is an excellent addition to a great series. I dreaded the end, even as I wanted to reach the final denouement (which of course wasn't fully there...) because I want more- both about what happened in this story, and what happens in Merrily's larger story. That won't come for awhile, I'm afraid. I think that's a good sign: I care about these characters and want to know what happens with them. I can't decide if Rickman is a horrible tease, or a brilliant writer in keeping a lot of that information, like in life, just out of reach.
"The anticipation of a new Merrily Watkins!!!"
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 and 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.
"Has to be the best one, so far!"
Here I am, at the end of the presently available Audible versions of the Merrily Watkins series! I have absolutely loved the time I have spent in the company of Phil Rickman's carefully developed cast of characters,and will greatly miss them, while I wait for the next book to come along! Love Emma Powell's reading of them, and the way she manages to bring the books to life! I don't care if Franny Bliss sounds like a girl - he comes over as a perfectly believable copper, to me - and I can't wait to find out how his story develops, amongst many other of the personae! Believe me - if another becomes available I shall be among the first to pre-order it!!
"The Best Yet"
Loved it. Will miss Merrily until the next book. Highly recommend to Phil Rickman readers.
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