Directed by the Bishop of Hereford to investigate, Merrily Watkins is wary of being used and suspicious of the people she's supposed to be helping. But violent death changes everything, and Merrily uncovers hidden layers of sin and retribution in a secretive landscape.
©2007 Phil Rickman; (P)2008 Isis Publishing Ltd
"Rickman's crime series is one of the best around" (Spectator)
I'm in love with the Merrily Watkins series as a whole, and this book delivers the goods once again. My favorite thing is how he weaves actual historical facts and figures into his stories. I read "O Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" in a collection of short stories many years ago and it haunted me ever since(even though I forgot both the name of it's author and the collection). When I heard lines from that tale coming from the mouths of this book's characters, the little hairs rose on my arms and neck! I've never known of anyone else who had even heard of that story! As always, I'm sorry that Rebecca Lacey didn't do the reading (she did the first and was excellent). Emma Powell is quite good, but Ms. Lacey was the best.
This is the first of Phil Rickman's books I have read. His skillful weaving of British history/geography, ancient lore, and the travails of modern life into an intriguing mystery novel works quite well. Rickman even manages to find tantalizing new ground to explore in the well-trod realms of the Templars and Freemasonry, both of which feature prominently in the book.
My unfamiliarity with the history of the cast of characters, many of whom clearly appeared in previous books, as well as with the ins and outs of British class structure, government and church politics, was something of a disadvantage, although not so much so as to keep me from enjoying the book and learning quite a bit in the process. I'm hoping my learning curve will be shorter on the next Rickman book I read--something I'm definitely planning on doing.
Sometimes the narrator contributes so much to a series that they imprint themselves in my mind as indistinguishable from the protagonist. That has definitely happened with Emma Powell. She is one of the most accomplished narrators working today, and I wish she worked non-stop. That being said, the plot here is also absorbing. Listening while I garden is a favorite hobby, and this one kept me on my knees in the dirt til after dark.
1st of all the audible book was hard to understand. This was because of the Welsh accents and the reading seemed to be rushed. I bought an actual copy of the book to follow along with the reading. Maybe I should have read the 1st book in the series because I think the author assumed I knew the characters. I didn't. Worst of all, nothing much happends after 170 pages. It was just painful to listen to. My wife and I just gave up even though there was a dead body after more than 180 pages.
"Abandon Your Catheters and Hail Merrily Watkins"
It's a strange thing. It seems the only people who don't appreciate the excellent Merrily Watkins novels are the serial bed wetters who continue to wail and gnash their plastic fangs at Rickman for packing up his collection of pendulums, healing crystals and dowsing rods and decamping to the vicarage in Ledwardine where he now does a brisk trade with bell, book and candle. The Fabric of Sin may well turn out to be the book that finally brings a few of these disillusioned souls back to the body of the Kirk, so to speak.
This isn't a book for reading in leisurely, spaced out intervals (or any sort of spaced-out way for that matter) as the plot ricochets at high velocity between M.R. James, Templar Knights, religiously rabid parishioners, malevolent entities, synthetic sexual partners, and black magic rituals. Add murder, rape, suicide, along with a small dash of Nick Drake to the already sparking crucible and what you get is one of the best Merrily Watkins novels yet.
This novel may fall into the crime/mystery genre but the prose is always more Robert Frost than Inspector Frost - the cadence of the word-flow evocative and visionary, akin to something the Colourist movement might have painted. Like Nick Drake's music, which serves as a backdrop to many of these books, Rickman's writing has a curious way of slipping beneath the skin and making you dance to its own subliminal harmonic beat. For me alas, the dance is over for another year...... or at least until the audio book comes out.
"Ghosts at Garway Church?"
Firstly I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook. Having said that I must admit to having reservations about how well this particular story lends itself to audio format. It is a complicated story with many characters, and flashbacks to times decades and centuries before the book's present. This can lead to confusion.
The main character, the brilliantly named Merrily Watkins, is trying to ply her wares as a priest and part time exorcist against a background of an increasingly more secular Church, the usual conspiracies of fear and silence, and her need to keep her personal relationships from scandalising the community. In this she is a most believable character, struggling with the mundane to achieve the sublime.
The plot involves a Manor house which has been newly purchased by the Crown. The builder engaged to conduct the refurbishment has been scared away and refuses to return. Merrily is asked to establish whether it there are earthly or spiritual disturbances at work.
When you throw in a fistful of strange local characters, the Knights Templar and their nearby Church, and the complex life that Merrily herself lives, it is easy to see how the story becomes complicated and a little hard to follow at times. The reading is good though, and well paced.
I would recommend this audiobook and have given it three stars though I would readily accept that it possibly deserves three and a half.
"CAN'T BEAR TO LISTEN!"
I am SO disappointed in this book - I'm afraid I just cannot bear the narrator's style of reading - disjointed and "breathy". I have struggled through nearly to the end of the first part but just cannot listen any more. The plot is extremely convoluted, and I would not recommend it unless you are obsessed by the Knights Templar! This is the first audiobook I have given up on, and really regret having to give such a negative write-up.
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