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Phil Rickman

Author of The Wine of Angels

42+ Works 6,143 Members 221 Reviews 40 Favorited

About the Author

Image credit: copyright John Mason.


Works by Phil Rickman

The Wine of Angels (1998) 607 copies
Midwinter of the Spirit (1999) 426 copies
Curfew (1993) 368 copies
A Crown of Lights (2001) 346 copies
The Cure of Souls (2001) 331 copies
The Bones of Avalon (2010) 305 copies
The Lamp of the Wicked (2002) 305 copies
The Remains of an Altar (2006) 298 copies
December (1994) 289 copies
The Smile of a Ghost (2005) 261 copies
Candlenight (1991) 259 copies
The Fabric of Sin (2007) 244 copies
The Man in the Moss (1994) 230 copies
The Chalice (1997) 228 copies

Associated Works

OxCrimes (2014) — Contributor — 74 copies


2013 (40) audiobook (27) British (64) Church of England (48) crime (205) crime fiction (88) ebook (113) England (224) exorcism (94) exorcists (33) fantasy (69) favorite author (28) fiction (787) ghosts (89) Glastonbury (28) Herefordshire (86) historical (33) historical fiction (54) horror (429) Kindle (196) Merrily Watkins (200) Merrily Watkins series (54) murder (49) mystery (726) novel (118) occult (57) own (39) paranormal (127) Phil Rickman (48) read (140) religion (69) series (52) sf (29) supernatural (352) suspense (34) thriller (102) to-read (313) UK (36) unread (41) Wales (106)

Common Knowledge

Lancashire, England, UK



It had been years since I'd first enjoyed the first three books in Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins series. Then the day came when I saw the next three sitting on my bookshelf, and I knew it was time to pick up book four, The Cure of Souls. Rickman knows how to blend many elements into a compelling, atmospheric tale.

There's the element of the supernatural that makes the story a tiny bit eery, even though the cause of mayhem is always rooted in very earthbound human behavior. There's the element of setting in which I always learn something about the area. In The Cure of Souls, this element is threefold: a bit about the history of hop growing and picking, the making of guitars, and Romany (gypsy) traditions. There's the ecclesiastical element which is done with a light touch. There's the strong element of mystery which keeps readers wondering what in the world is going on, and then there's my favorite-- the element of character. I truly enjoy the characters in this book.

Merrily Watkins is a woman with a true calling. She wants to do good. She wants to help her fellow human beings. She wants to raise her teenage daughter to be a good person, and she's still not convinced that she's the right priest for the job of diocese exorcist, but she's working hard to learn as much about it as she can. She has to work hard because too many people still look at her and think, "You're the wrong sex, you're too young, you're too small."

At the beginning of this series, I couldn't stand Merrily's daughter, Jane. Jane just got right up my nose, but I'm happy to say that, as she gets older, she's begun to realize that the world doesn't revolve around her and she needs to take other people into account. She's got good instincts in this book, and it's fun to watch the evolution of her character.

I love how Rickman begins his tales with overtones of the supernatural-- Ouija boards, fortune tellers, demonic possession, ghosts-- and then turns everything inside out to show how the mystery is actually rooted in the here and now. That takes skill, and when that skill is joined with an atmospheric setting and a strong cast of characters, it turns this series into a winner.
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cathyskye | 9 other reviews | Feb 18, 2024 |
This was not the book I had anticipated at all, given its beginning. It starts off with a tragedy which strikes Gomer Parry, one of the most likeable characters in this series. The Reverend Merrily Watkins accompanies him for moral support - and because he has been in the pub when he got the call and needs someone else to drive his van - to the scene of his business premises where all his digger vehicles are stored. An even worse discovery awaits than the destruction of Gomer's livelihood, and they are soon off to a house where he had earlier agreed to remove a badly fitted upmarket septic tank for a woman who appeared too scared to call back Roddy Lodge, the original contractor, Gomer being convinced that Roddy - who has left a threatening message on his answerphone - has torched his premises.

A confrontation with Roddy, who is there at night apparently removing the tank himself, soon escalates into a murder enquiry. And the book starts to take a different turn, first with Roddy's seeming madness and 'confession' of being a mass murderer, and then with the effect of electrical energy on human health, for Roddy's village is surrounded by electricity pilons and his home is right next to one. Finally, the dominant theme of the second part of the book takes over where the real life serial killers, Fred (now deceased) and Rosemary West, become an integral part of the story.

The book was extremely dark and full of depression: for a start, Merrily's 17-year-old daughter Jane is suffering from it, having lost her starry eyed belief in spirits of nature and other such New Age topics and now seeing no point in human existence. Merrily's mentor, Huw, is another sufferer and seeking some redemption for the loss of his love, a woman whose daughter was murdered, probably by West or some disciple of his, and who eventually committed suicide. The community where Roddy lives is also dogged by a dark presence in the former Baptist chapel. The only light relief in the book is the possibility of Merrily's lover Lol finally getting back on stage and being able to perform again, and Moira, the Scots singer who is helping him to do that.

I found the basing of the story on the real life crimes of the Wests unacceptable. There are obviously a lot of people still living who have either lost loved ones at their hands, or who have to live with the knowledge that they will never know if the Wests were responsible for the disappearance of their relatives in that general area around that time. Plus those who were survivors of the awful abuse that went on at the Wests' house. The book was actually published in 2003, not that long after the events in question either. I think a story could have been written where the same ideas were used - electromagnetism and its effect on human mental health, practitioners of sex magic and how that might shade into sexual abuse and murder - without having to have it be about these real life people. For me, it trivialised the suffering of the victims and their families, and so I'm afraid this has to be a 1-star even though it was well written - because I just didn't like it.
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kitsune_reader | 9 other reviews | Nov 23, 2023 |
A return to this series for me having read volume 3 some years ago. This is book 1 in the series and Merrily Watkins, newly qualified vicar, is installed as Priest-in-Charge (not quite a full vicar) in a small Herefordshire village in an enormous old vicarage where she and her teenage daughter Jane are rattling around like the proverbial peas. There is an undercurrent of unease starting with the unscheduled event during an apple orchard Wassailing ritual, and building through the book as it becomes clear that there are a number of very unpleasant secrets among old families, stemming back to at least the seventeenth century.

I liked the characters of Jane and old Gomer Parish, a retired plant and machinery man (who was still working in 'Crybbe', a non-Merrily Watkins Rickman novel I read a while back). My favourite character was the eccentric elderly woman, Lucy. I wasn't so keen on Merrily: I'm afraid I find her irritating, too quick to constantly dismiss evidence of supernatural activity and rather ineffectual for her role. I also wasn't happy that, as in 'Crybbe', the author once more resorts to killing off one of the more interesting characters although this time it was at least quite late on.

The revelations of what is really going on in the village are chilling but took too long to come out for me, and were over too quickly and skimpily. It was also left a bit vague as to a key event at the end - was Jane transported away to safety in the orchard by the fay folk and if so, was Lol Robinson really "covered" legally regarding his justifiable (if she was in the clutches of a ruthless murderer) action otherwise?. So given the problems I found, I would rate this a 3-star quite enjoyable read, but no higher.
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kitsune_reader | 31 other reviews | Nov 23, 2023 |



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