Monday, September 6, 2010

Phil Rickman: The Cure of Souls (Merrily Watkins #4)

Happy Labor Day!

I want to review one of this series of the Merrily Watkins Deliverance Consultant series by Phil Rickman. Rickman has done some previous horror novels, but this series is pure Gothic with spooky old churches, Pagan rites, ley lines, and ghosts galore. Each novel has a villain or two, and every one of the novels is highly atmospheric.

Merrily is a late 30s something, chain smoking fireball of an Anglican deliverance minister. In other words, she does exorcisms and investigations in Great Britain usually on the Welsh border where all kinds of strange things happen. This is my favorite novel in the series so far, set in Herefordshire. I really like the character of Merrily's boyfriend and guitarist, Lol, and I found some great music due to this novel-- Nick Drake's "Time of No Reply" and his other hits, to be specific. The choice of Drake as a focus is obvious due to his haunting, short life.

Merrily's teenage daughter, Jane, can be a bit annoying at times, but I guess that portrayal is realistic. The two women both develop more in their romantic relationships in this book, and a mystery concerning gypsies and occult happenings is the focus.

Characterization: 5/5 [I feel like I know these characters after reading most of the series. They are likable and humanly fallible.]

Plot: 4/5 [The plot is full of suspense; Rickman is a capable writer and juggles multiple story lines well.]

Literary: 4/5 [Rickman's writing is like a fine wine-- to be savored. The writing is accessible for most anyone, I'd say, but there is plenty of historical and geographical detail in these novels.]

Atmosphere/spooky stuff: 5/5 [There is something for everyone here. I got chills several times in this novel with details about gypsy beliefs, ghosts, and other supernatural elements. Sometimes, these novels are just downright frightening.]

Romance: Yes! Merrily and Lol have an often angst filled relationship because it's not a good thing for the Rev. to be bonking men in the rectory. Jane and Eirion also have a relationship going in the novel.

Rating: 4+ stars     ****.5

**I highly recommend this whole series. I was hooked from the first book and have tried to get my hands on the new one in the series each year when it comes out. I need to get my hands on numbers 9 and 10. The covers of these novels are spookilicious as you can see. :)


Anonymous said...

I've never read one but I will have to look him up, we have similar tastes so I believe I can trust your recommendations.
- Barrymore

Alex and Lynn Ward said...

I agree entirely with your assessment.
I'm a big Phil Rickman fan and particularly love the Merrily Watkins series.
I also really enjoyed Mean Spirits, which he wrote under the name Will Kingdom, you might like it too.
Barrymore, try Rickman, you won't be sorry.

lisalgreer said...

I have read that one written under his pen name Will Kingdom as well, Lynn. It was quite good as you say. Rickman is really great... :). I don't think any gothic lover could go wrong giving him a try...

carolannkg said...

I read my first Phil Rickman beginning of this year, and was hooked. Since then I've read nearly all of the Merrily Watkins novels (brilliant characters, great relationships, and very spooky) and have a couple of his other stand alone novels to read.

I must check out the Will Kingdom novel mentioned as well, sounds very intriguing.

lisalgreer said...

Hi, Carol, Thanks so much for reading and posting! It's always exciting to find other fans of Rickman. I find that his work is tough to get in my local library (everywhere I have lived other than Canada, anyway), and many have not read his work yet. They are definitely wonderful Gothics for their atmospheric qualities! :)

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