Mar. 10th, 2013

joysilence: (Default)
[personal profile] joysilence
Well, it has been a while but Phil Rickman has finally produced another Merrily Watkins novel: The Secrets of Pain. Regular readers may know that I'm a huge fan of Phil Rickman, especially his novels about Church of England "deliverance consultant" (or exorcist) Merrily Watkins. They feature a beguiling mixture of police procedural, ecclesiastical goings-on and supernatural or mystical content. They have been described as "The Vicar of Dibley meets Cracker",though that doesn't do justice to the numinous feel of the novels or the fascinating, vital way they evoke modern rural Britain at its most beautiful and horrific. I first checked out Rickman after reading a glowing review of The Fabric of Sin by Steve Duffy, which should tell you something about the quality of the writing in these books!

I ended up giving The Fabric... a good review myself, and after moving on to A Crown of Lights I was irretrievably hooked on the series. Though I've been a bit slack about reviewing them all here they are all of a high standard (my favourite The Remains of an Altar, has the numinous turned up to 11 and is a remarkable, haunting story.) However, I found 2009's To Dream of The Dead a bit lacking. The Watkins series is into the double figures now and I was a bit scared that the author might be falling into a cookie-cutter approach. To Dream of the Dead had an unusually heavy emphasis on the police procedural side of things, focussed on incredibly depressing subjects (global warming and Richard Dawkins-style fascist atheism) and generally lacked the magic of the earlier novels. But can The Secrets of Pain repair the damage to Rickman's reputation?

Our Friends Ecclesiastic )

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