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Prayer Of The Night Shepherd: A Revd Merrily Watkins Mystery (A Merrily Watkins Mystery) Hardcover – April 1, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 535 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan UK (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0333908066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333908068
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,138,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When unemployed TV producer Ben Foley discovers that running murder-mystery weekends at Stanner Hall, an old Herefordshire mansion turned hotel he’s purchased, isn’t as profitable as he anticipated, he determines to prove his theory that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had in mind a tale from the Welsh border region, not Devon, for the background to The Hound of the Baskervilles. In British author Rickman’s chilling fifth entry in his occult crime series (The Lamp of the Wicked, etc.) featuring Merrily Watkins, the single mom, Anglican priest and exorcist gets involved in sinister doings rooted in actual legend, as the author explains in his afterword. Merrily’s independent 17-year-old daughter, Jane, takes a job with the hotel and enthusiastically supports Foley’s plans, until the local legend of a black dog that foreshadows death becomes all too real. A pre-Christmas snowstorm provides a shivering backdrop to events at Stanner Hall that lead Merrily, boyfriend Lol Robinson and Jane into a night none of them will forget. Human greed and evil, plus the healing properties of faith, combine to create a fascinating and fast-paced read. Sherlock Holmes fans, especially members of the Baker Street Irregulars, will be intrigued by an organization called "The Baker Street League."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“A fine mixture of murder and the occult.” -- Library Journal

“Chilling… fast–paced… provocative… even skeptics of the paranormal will shudder with fear.” -- Publishers Weekly for The Cure of Souls

“Human greed and evil, plus the healing properties of faith, combine to create a fascinating and fast-paced read.” -- Publishers Weekly Review Annex

“Rickman, a thinking reader's Elizabeth George, continues his traversal of Welsh superstitions, Church of England conundrums, and true-crime touchstones.” -- Kirkus Review

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 19 customer reviews
Supporting characters are equally well-drawn.
Linda Pagliuco
This time Sir Arthur Conan Doyle plays a role - and those fans of The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sherlock Holmes Vol. 5) will particularly enjoy this installment.
Yolanda S. Bean
I remember reading this book when it was first published and decided it was probably my least favourite of this excellent series.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Lovitt HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on June 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Stories of phantom black dogs abound in Britain. Almost every county has its own variant, from the Black Shuck of East Anglia to the Bogey Beast of Yorkshire. In this novel, the ghost hound of Herefordshire on the Welsh border foreshadows a death in the Vaughan family.
This family is also cursed with an ancestor named Black Vaughan, who is believed by the author to be the basis for the hellish Hugo of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Hound of the Baskervilles." Did Sir Arthur really take his tale of the phosphorescent Hound from the Welsh Border rather than foggy Dartmoor? Rickman's theory on the origins of 'The Hound' appeared in the most recent issue of the magazine "Sherlock."

Evidently this author discovered that Herefordshire had a population of medieval Baskervilles, not to mention Mortimers and Stapletons, and many local people still refuse to walk near Black Vaughan's home of Hergest Croft at night for fear of seeing his ghost and that of his hound.
Sherlock Holmes fans might want to read this book just to ferret out Rickman's research on Arthur Conan Doyle and his most famous dog story.

Since "The Prayer of the Night Shepherd" is also a Merrily Watkins procedural, many familiar characters appear from Rickman's previous novels. Merrily, Vicar of Ledwardine and Deliverance Consultant to the Diocese of Hereford reluctantly takes on a new role as a healer of physical ailments. Gomer Parry, the manic digger-for-hire who is one of my favorite Rickman creations, has a minor walk-on. Merrily's daughter Jane is as usual, in the thick of the supernatural goings-on at Stanner Hall.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By T. Williams on August 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Phil Rickman's latest novel, The Prayer of the Night Shepherd, has it all -- the historical legend of Black Vaughn and the Black Dog, the literary legend of Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles, the Rev. Merrily Watkins, the local "deliverance minister" (read "exorcist")whose work is fast becoming legend in the village of Ledwardine -- as well as a number of local murders, past and present, that are very real indeed. The result is a psychological thriller and supernatural whodunnit, artfully anchored in the culture and landscape of the Welsh border.

Merrily and her 17 year-old daughter, Jane, share center stage in Rickman's latest effort. Jane, now an "independent working woman on the Border," has just taken her first "real job," working weekends at a possibly haunted hotel owned by Ben and Amber Foley, a couple "from Off". Ben, a one-time TV producer, and Antony Largo, a Scottish film-maker, enlist Jane and take advantage of her enthusiam to help them with a project -- recording a seance to be held at the Foley's hotel. However, during the filming, Jane discovers that her co-workers and the guests at Stanner Hall are not what -- or who-- she was lead to believe.

Back at the Vicarage, Merrily has reluctantly agreed to use her newly-emerging healing ability to help the rather unpleasant nephew of a parishioner become free of the anxiety-induced asthma that has plagued him since childhood and the tragic death of his young cousin. She must also play the good shepherd trying to save a young sheep rancher bent on suicide, having found himself caught in a dangerous game of fox and hound with a local landowner and his hired thugs.

Rickman once again works his literary magic, blending disparate themes with a diverse cast of richly-written characters.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Marc Ruby™ HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 23, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This sixth in Rickman's Merrily Watkins series picks up after several of the more dramatic volumes in the series and finds the diocesian exorcist and minister of Ledwardine confronting a thorny problem. Merrily has started having informal evensong services and unexpectedly, one of the attendees is cured of a fatal tumor. Merrily isn't ready to accept this sudden sign of the Lord's blessing at face value, but her congregation does. Now she must deal with her and the church's mixed attitude toward healing. Which, she discovers, many think goes hand in hand with exorcism.

The other piece of good/bad news is that Jane, Merrily's daughter and chief critic, has managed to get a weekend job as waitress and general assistant at a struggling new inn that is trying to use its tenuous connection to Arthur Conan Doyle and the hound of the Baskervilles to build a clientele. All of this on the forbidding border with Wales where, as we are often reminded, long memories and getting even is a way of life. The legends of the area include a number of characters almost as grim as their remaining heirs. Throw in mysterious black dogs and bulls, a fair amount of inherited insanity, séances, and film crews and you have the perfect environment for trouble. As usual, Jane's youthful enthusiasm leads her into the worst of the fray.

Merrily must cope with healing, spiritism, a terminally determined daughter and her blossoming relationship with Lol. Compelled by her nature she is soon in the thick of things, trying to deal with phenomena that are unresponsive to either intellect or faith. The result is a complex story that is part history, part supernatural, and part psychological thriller.
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