Book review

The Cure Of Souls
Phil Rickman

The Stones 65-67So, here we are again; back in the bosom of the Reverend Merrily Watkins - Deliverance Minister for the C of E. For the uninitiated, that would be an exorcist then . . .

The Cure Of Souls - the fourth in an ever improving series - sees Merrily sent to a converted hop kiln and a man on the edge to diffuse a potentially embarrassing situation both spiritually and politically. Ah, if only it were so simple with Mr Rickman. A myriad of sub-plots keeps the novel interesting to the last and as I have come to expect, the sub-plots are never anything less than a match for the main story.
    Rickman has created a gaggle of characters that flank Merrily like ghosts of her own. Her daughter Jane seats herself deep into the fabric of the story, whilst erstwhile friend (and potential lover) Lol Robinson bewilderingly remains peripheral and integral like only a true friend can.

Actually, The Cure Of Souls contains two major plots (so I lied - sue me). The first - mentioned above - carries the weight of the book, but far more appealing and dynamic is Rickman's burrowing into the psyche of teenagers, ouija boards, possession and gypsy folklore. Nobody treats this material like Rickman - not since the early days of Ramsey Campbell have these subjects been treated with the respect they deserve. If you don't give these old stalwarts of the supernatural some respect, then you just end up looking stupid. We've all seen Witchboard 2 - The Devil's Doorway right? Or even just Witchboard for that matter!
    No, Rickman injects 'ultra-life' into the old horse, and despite what some (quite frankly) idiotic and obviously city-bound person from the Times (of all places) dealt out as a review comment on a previous book - and I quote: "Rather as if an episode of The Vicar Of Dibley or The Archers had suddenly turned into Cracker" - Rickman is at the top of his game, bringing all that was good about Dennis Wheatley back into the fray. Having said that, I honestly feel that the best is yet to come.

To make a book like this work, it has to be believable and all of the Merrily Watkins series thrive on this thin line between reality and the spiritual/supernatural.
    If you're not already an avid fan and think that the mystery novel comes only in the form of detective thrillers; think again and put your money where my mouth is. You won't be disappointed.

:: Sion Smith

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