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Summer Reading: Merrily Watkins Books by Phil Rickman

Updated on October 22, 2013

Merrily Watkins: Single mum, Parish Priest, Deliverence Consultant. A great mystery series for reading on the beach.

I'm always buying books and never having the time to read them. So when I get to holiday time I always have a pile of books to choose from. I love all types of detective and mystery books and I'm always on the look-out for new characters and series I've missed. This means I can read several books in a row and become very familiar with the characters and settings without having to wait for the author to publish the next one.

Last summer I picked up a book in a Charity shop, a last minute buy just before I went on holiday.It was called "The Wine of Angels" by Phil Rickman, published 1999.I wasn't aware of this series before, but from the description on the back I could tell it was different from my usual detective reads. Once I started reading I couldn't stop.I couldn't wait to buy the next in the series.In fact I've now read half the books in the series and am storing up the remainder to read on my holiday this summer. So let me introduce to Merrily Watkins: single Mum, Parish priest who is also a deliverance consultant.

All photos in this article are my own originals copyright 2012

An English Country Churchyard in winter
An English Country Churchyard in winter

Wine of Angels by Phil Rickman. My Book Review

My first impressions of Merrily Watkins

When I start reading a new series I like to feel immediately at home with the main characters and the setting.The herione of these novels is a lovely lady who is all too human. Merrily Watkins is a single Mum in her late 30s and also a vicar. Following a personal tragedy she is still finding her feet and her place in a male dominated calling. .Her new Parish, Ledwardine, is a cosy chocolate box village on the English Welsh borders with cobbled streets and thatched cottages. The locals are a mix of old farming families and newcomers from the towns and cities.

What makes Merrily different is that she has trained as a Deliverence consultant, who is called upon to deal with any supernatural phenomenom and able to perform exorcism on people or places.

While on the surface the parish covers an ordinary rural community the area is steeped in tradition and folklore and she is called to deal with many unusual cases of the paranormal

In this first book of the series Merrily finds herself in the middle of a local dispute over a play about a 17th-century vicar accused of witchcraft in the village church.This leads to a modern day murder, or two and Merrily finds herself at odds with the police, and many of the villagers as she tries to deal with a haunted vicarage, age old feuds, local folklore and the fact her teenage daughter Jane is flirting with paganism.

There are so many twists and turns, and the characters are genuinely multi-dimensional which means you grow to care about them and share in their torments, hopes and fears and in their frailities.Add that to solving a murder or two whether the crime is 300 years old or modern day and it all adds up to a great read for the beach.

Merrily Watkins Novels on Amazon in order

The Wine of Angels (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)
The Wine of Angels (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)

New parish Priest Merrily Watkins finds that a controversial play about a 17th-century priest accused of witchcraft.leads to a 20th century murder.

 
A Crown of Lights (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)
A Crown of Lights (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)

When a derelict country church is bought by a pagan couple, a modern witch hunt begins, and Merrily Watkins is expected to keep a lid on the cauldron

 
The Smile of a Ghost (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)
The Smile of a Ghost (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)

A young teenage boy dies, but his grandmother becomes convinced she's still seeing her dead grandson in the old town. Merrily Watkins, parish priest is brought in to find out if it is dementia, delusion or something even more sinister.

 
Remains of an Altar: A Merrily Watkins Mystery (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)
Remains of an Altar: A Merrily Watkins Mystery (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)

In 1934, the dying composer Sir Edward Elgar feebly whistled to a friend the theme from his Cello Concerto and said, "If you're walking on the Malvern Hills and hear that, don't be frightened. It's only me." Seventy years later, Merrily Watkins-parish priest and Deliverance Consultant to the Diocese of Hereford-is called in to investigate an alleged paranormal happening.

 
The Fabric of Sin: A Merrily Watkins Mystery (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)
The Fabric of Sin: A Merrily Watkins Mystery (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)

Investigating an allegedly haunted house with royal connections, Merrily Watkins, deliverance consultant for the Diocese of Hereford, is exposed to a real and tangible evil

 
To Dream of the Dead: A Merrily Watkins Mystery (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)
To Dream of the Dead: A Merrily Watkins Mystery (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)

The village of ledwardine has been flooded. Electricity has been cut and the church is serving as a temporary mortuary for two people who drowned.

 

Latest Merrily Watkins book on Amazon

The Secrets of Pain (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)
The Secrets of Pain (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)

With the recession biting deep, urban crime has spilled into the countryside and old barbaric evils are revived. When a wealthy landowner is hacked to death in his own farmyard a secret pagan past is unearthed.

 
The Magus of Hay (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)
The Magus of Hay (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)

COMING SOON! Published November 2013, the latest in the saga. A body is found below a waterfall. At first It looks like suicide or an accidental drowning - when finds are made in the dead man's home. Merrily Watkins, the Diocese of Hereford's official advisor on the paranormal is called on to investigate.

 

Do you like to read something new on holiday?

I usually save up books by my favourite authors throughout the year to take on holiday. Especially if I'm flying and don't have much spare baggage allowance, every book counts! However I wouldn't have found the Merrily Watkins series if I hadn't been looking for something slightly different as my final book to take with me last year. My friend will only take new authors and unfamiliar genres with her on holiday as she says that's the ideal time to try something new. I just wondered how evryone else feels.

Do you like to read something different on holiday?

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Typical English village like Ledwardwine
Typical English village like Ledwardwine

The Typical English village

When reading the Merrily Watkins series I tried to imagine what the village of Ledwardwine was like.

The stories are set in the English county of Herefordshire on the borders with Wales. The main towns mentioned are real, however Ledwardwine is a ficticious place, a village typical of so many ancient and pretty villages that appeal to tourists in that area. So I've chosen a photo of a real-life village that sums up what Ledwardine would look like if you wanted to visit .

The Ministry of deliverance

I was surprised to learn that the Ministry of Deliverance exists within the Anglican Church and that there is at least one in every diocese in the UK. They work with social workers, psychiatrists and sometimes with the Police, in cases of people troubled by paranormal or unexplained experiences. While not exactly holiday reading I've found a few books below that might make interesting background reading when you get home.

Will you be looking out for the Merrily Watkins novels to read this summer?

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      RinchenChodron 4 years ago

      Yes, I love a good mystery and stick with one author once I've found a good one. This series sounds like great fun.