Merrily, Merrily, Merrily…

Oh Phil…

I have a bone to pick with Phil Rickman’s publishers. What do they think they’re doing publishing the latest Merrily Watkins novel at such a busy time of year? Now my poor family are going to have to fend for themselves and the tapestry is going to be neglected, while I immerse myself in the latest supernatural happenings at the vicarage in Ledwardine.

I suppose with an immense amount of will-power, I could have put The Magus of Hay on the shelf and waited for a quieter time, but come on – he’s not only given us the first Merrily book for two years, but he’s set it in Hay-on-Wye (my spiritual home). I mean really – how inconsiderate. I have no choice, I just have to read it…NOW!

IMAG3822Thanks Phil – please keep them coming…





Going To Bed With Phil Rickman

I have a confession to make, for the past three nights, I’ve been taking another man to my bed – Phil Rickman. Well OK, not really – the husband would probably have noticed – in fact I’ve actually been reading Phil Rickman’s latest book, The Secrets of Pain – another in his series of novels featuring Merrily Watkins.

Now if I tell you that the main character in these books is a widowed female thirty-something vicar, living in rural Herefordshire with her teenage daughter, you might wonder what there is to get excited about, but if I tell you that she’s also the Diocesan Deliverance Minister (exorcist to you and me), and that murders and mildly supernatural happenings are the mainstay of the novels, would it tickle your fancy at all?

I suspect that this type of novel is a bit like Marmite, but I love Marmite and I’m a huge Phil Rickman fan too, although not scraped over burnt toast.

To demonstrate just how much I like these books, I should tell you that they are the only ones I’ve ever pre-ordered from Amazon – praise indeed.

Phil takes mostly real places in the Welsh Marches area, and weaves stories from local legend and real events into what his website calls ‘crime novels with a restrained element of the paranormal’.

The characters are soothingly well observed. My own favourite is Gomer Parry – how I wish he was around for real. He’s a bit like a superhero, but older than your granddad and sporting a roll-up ciggie.

Anyway, I could probably wax lyrical until your pants fell off, so all I’ll say is, if your bedtime needs a bit of escapism, give him a go. Try and start with The Wine of Angels, if you are the obsessive type who likes to get in at the beginning – you can read them in any order, but it probably makes more sense to go in sequence if you can.

If you run out of the Merrily Watkins books, he also wrote a couple of books under the name Will KingdomThe Cold Calling and Mean Spirit – both also excellent reads.

When I first started reading his books, it was quite difficult to find them, but recently I’ve actually found a couple in local charity shops, a true sign that an author has really made it into popular culture – so well done Phil, please keep them coming.

NB: Rest assured, I’m not getting paid anything for this glowing report – it’s entirely independent and if you go out and buy everything the author’s ever written, I won’t see a penny – that’s the way it should be in my book.

Help! Murderers and Flawed Detectives Needed.

A small part of the collection.

I may have mentioned that I’m a woman of a certain age – and you know what that means don’t you – it means I’m addicted to detective fiction. Not for me the bedroom romps of chick-lit, or bodice ripping historic romances, no, what I most like to tuck myself into bed with at night (apart from the husband of course), is a good old-fashioned detective story.

Over the years, I’ve lumbered through the streets of Edinburgh with John Rebus, accompanied Inspector Morse to umpteen Oxford murder sites, marvelled at the murder rate in sleepy Chiltern villages with Tom Barnaby and practically morphed into Miss Marple. I love a good murder mystery and I love a good old cranky detective to solve it.

One of my hobbies is finding detective stories at charity shops. This is really quite easy with the more prolific authors, fortunately many of their readers seem happy to pass on their used paperbacks, often quite soon after they’ve been published. I managed to find the complete collection of Ian Rankin’s books over the period of a couple of years, just shopping in our local charity shops, but it was harder to find Caroline Graham’s books. I was beginning to worry that I’d have to pay full price, when as luck would have it, our local British Heart Foundation shop suddenly took possession of two titles in one week (I suspect a fellow enthusiast had kindly donated their collection).

But after years doing this, I find myself lacking inspiration. Who should I read next? I don’t like a lot of blood and gore, I’ve tried a few Ruth Rendells and CP Snows, but I’m not that big a fan, I love Phil Rickman’s books, but I’ve read them all, so what I need now is inspiration. Who should I try next?

Are there any modern-day Dorothy L Sayers out there? That’s the sort of thing I’d like. If you’ve any recommendations, do let me know.