Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Macmillan UK
Release Date: November 2002
ISBN: 0330487566
Format Reviewed: Paperback
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Genre: Modern Supernatural Crime (Hereford and environs, UK)
Reviewed: 2003
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:

The Cure of Souls
A Revd Merrily Watkins Mystery, No. 3
Phil Rickman 

     This is the fourth of Phil Rickman's books featuring exorcist Merrily Watkins and they aren't easy to pigeonhole. They are crime novels, but you could also file them under supernatural. Think of M R James mixed with The Midsomer Murders (the wonderfully satirical books, not the TV series), add scenes from The Exorcist, and you might have something approaching these impressive books. They aren't short, but a lot gets packed into them, including social comment, teenage angst and the uneasy relations between Welsh and English folk along the borders. We've already had the cider industry as a theme in the first book and now attention is turned to hops.

     A converted hop kiln has been the scene of a murder, involving a local writer and two gypsy lads and the new owners want it exorcised, so the Rev Merrily Watkins is sent along to officiate. But things go horribly wrong and, as if that isn't enough, there is also the deepening mystery of a schoolgirl who is trying to contact the dead and seems to be possessed. Merrily's teenage daughter Jane is on holiday with her boyfriend Eirion and his wealthy, Welsh-speaking family over the border and then there is her burgeoning interest in faded rock musician Lol Robinson.

     This book is slightly too long for its story but only very slightly and it is bursting with story, multi-themed to such an extent that it practically leaks out of the edges. As with the other books, there is a lot more in here than just a tale, and the star is still the wonderful descriptions of Hereford and the surrounding countryside that are spot on (I love the place, too) and Rickman's usual amusingly wry comments about the modern church, teenagers and New Age culture and spot-on characterization that mixes satire at one extreme to loveable but warts-and-all reality at the other. These books deserve to be bestsellers and are possibly some of the most enjoyable modern crime novels around that mix unabashed modernity with good old-fashioned tale-telling and come up with something that is far more than just another murder mystery. Highly recommended in all senses of the term.

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