‘This is my attempt to do something different, because writers should. If you don’t, it’s just another day job.
Merrily Watkins has what is very much a night job. She’s Deliverance Consultant or Advisor on the Paranormal for the Diocese of Hereford. Or Exorcist, as it used to be known.
It’s a real job; there’s at least one in every diocese in the UK. They work with psychiatrists, social workers… and also the police. Inevitably, in this series, this is the aspect of the job that predominates.
And their own beliefs are often tested. There are few certainties. The borderline between psychology and the unexplained is often laid out in barbed wire.
Each novel stands alone. There are threads, but you can pick them up. You don’t have to read them in order.’
From Phil Rickmans website.
I’ve read all the Merrily Watkins series and eagerly await the next one. I’ve also dipped into his Dr Dee series – admittedly I’ve only read the second book – The Heresy of Dr Dee – but I felt that I could read the book without having read the first.
A few quick-fire facts about Phil Rickman:
- He lives in Hay-on-Wye – THE place for all things books
- He won a couple of awards for his work as a BBC radio and TV news reporter.
- There are 14 books in the Merrily Watkins series, and he is currently writing the 15th (!)
As mentioned above, the Merrily Watkins series has to be my favourite series, hands down. Perhaps it’s because it’s based in Herefordshire – a place I have a strong connection to, or maybe it could be that she’s a female Deliverance Minister – dealing with things that go bump in the night?
It’s interesting how the first Merrily Watkins book, The Wine of Angels, was released in 1998, a good few years until I picked up the book in 2012/13. And the series is still going! With Friends of the Dusk released in 2015 and a 15th (!) book now being written, readers have a further chance to delve into Merrily’s world.
A few quick-fire facts about Merrily Watkins:
- She was initially training to be a lawyer
- She smokes!
- She had a ‘goth’ stage
- She has a daughter called Jane
Focusing on Jane, I really do love her character. When we first meet Jane in book one, she is a teenager, dealing with an upheaval and death in the family, Jane comes across as a lost little girl. Over the series, she grows and blossoms into a very smart young lady. Jane is very inquisitive and takes to Wicca – somewhat different from her mother’s view of religion. What I like about the books is the cross-over of beliefs, Merrily bounces ideas off Jane and the religions interweave throughout, an example in Friends of the Dusk is Christianity and Islamic religions, and Phil Rickman weaves these very well.
ITV did a 3-part drama series, titled the Midwinter of the Spirit – the name of the second book in the series. Which focuses on the 1st and 2nd book in the Merrily Watkins’ series. Merrily is played by actress Anna Maxwell-Martin. I haven’t got around to watching this yet, so I can’t comment but it is on my to be watched list, more so out of curiosity.
The best thing I love about Phil Rickman’s writing is that you’re constantly learning. Readers are learning when the characters learn, and especially when it comes to the Merrily Watkins series, both the characters and the readers are learning throughout the book.
So, do you have a favourite series that you enjoy reading and could recommend? Let me know in the comments below!