The Secrets of Pain

I’ve just finished (on my Kindle, in case you’re interested) the 11th book in the Merrily Watkins series by Phil Rickman: The Secrets of Pain. It seems to have been a long wait for this latest one in the series to come out because Mr Rickman also writes other books as well and one must assume he was busy doing just that. But I’m afraid I was a little disappointed with this latest offering, although I see all the reviews on Amazon are excellent so perhaps I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind.

As the blurb says about Merrily Watkins:

Merrily Watkins, parish priest, single mother, exorcist, works for the Diocese of Hereford in a remote village on the border of England and Wales. Like many men and women doing an essentially medieval job in an increasingly secular society, she’s never certain how much she can permit herself to believe. It doesn’t help that she sometimes has to work with psychiatrists and the police. Or that her employer, the Church of England, is far from free of prejudice, sexism, greed and corruption. Or that Merrily’s teenage daughter is more interested in paganism than the priesthood. No wonder she smokes. No wonder she occasionally lapses into language hard to find in the Bible.

And indeed, that has been the main reason for me reading and enjoying the series. However, my criticism of The Secrets of Pain would be that there just wasn’t enough of Merrily in this book. Oh she was there, flitting about reading Julian of Norwich and managing to be out and about the hills on Maundy Thursday evening. I mean, come on! What parish priest has time to gad about the countryside on Maundy Thursday? In fact, she seems to be most laid back priest I’ve ever encountered in Holy Week but perhaps the CofE does things a little differently.

There was plenty of Lol, her boyfriend, and Jane, her daughter. And the other faves were in there too:  Gomer and Ethel the cat, Frannie Bliss et al. In fact this book seemed to be more about the love life of the police than anything remotely priestly. (Not that I object to reading about someone’s love life, you understand, but at my age frankly I’d rather read about the machinations of the church.)

The plot involves countryside politics, fox hunting, ley lines, Roman history and Mithraic rituals, cock fighting, the SAS and ex-soldiers gone bad.  It was more crime than supernatural which I missed.

Actually it was a good story and I raced through it in a couple of days, so don’t let what I’ve said above put you off. (And it did just cost me 99p for the Kindle version when it isn’t even out in paperback yet.)  I just felt that it could have done with more Merrily and less of her unbelievably stupid daughter Jane. More church next time, please, Mr Rickman.

Lol Robinson sings

I’ve been listening to a CD this morning entitled Songs from Lucy’s Cottage which is rather nice. The strange thing is that it is sung by a fictional character. Kind of. Readers will know I am a big fan of the Phil Rickman books featuring Merrily Watkins: single parent; Silk-Cut smoking; priest; and diocesan exorcist. Merrily’s lover is a man by the name of Lol Robinson who has developed rather nicely throughout the series of books from angst-ridden, Nick Drake fan to a man who finally has played his music in public without the help of narcotics or alcohol and has modest success.  Throughout the books we hear about songs which Lol has written or performed and here they all are.

I liked Heavy Medication Day which reflects the care which goes on in some psychiatric hospitals. Cure of Souls is haunting and stuck in my head.  The whole CD is kind of done in the style of Nick Drake (of whom I am a big fan) and is really rather nice. I shall keep listening and sure I’ll come back to it too. If you are a lover of the books, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too. (And Gomer’s voice is just how I imagined it!)