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The Smile of a Ghost (Merrily Watkins Mysteries) Paperback – November 1, 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Merrily Watkins faces her most challenging case yet in British author Rickman's unsettling seventh mystery to feature the Anglican priest and deliverance consultant to the diocese of Hereford (after 2004's The Prayer of the Night Shepherd). When the 14-year-old nephew of newly retired Det. Sgt. Andy Mumford falls from the ruined castle in the medieval town of Ludlow, the official inquest rules the boy's death a suicide. Suspecting foul play, Mumford seeks Merrily's aid. Two more deaths shatter the village, and Mumford, not yet at peace with his retirement, begins to investigate on his own. Rickman vividly depicts Ludlow's narrow streets and the sinister castle, but it's his masterly handling of the occult elements and their impact on the psychology of his sensitive and memorable characters that will keep readers mesmerized from start to finish.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

...memorable characters that will keep readers mesmerized from start to finish. -- Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

A thinking reader’s Elizabeth George. -- Kirkus Reviews
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Product Details

  • Series: Merrily Watkins Mysteries
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan UK (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330438158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330438155
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,006,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. MacAlister on November 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Smile of a Ghost is undoubtedly the best of the Merrily Watkins series--and the best of all Rickman's books. Though there is a slight paranormal flavor, the book works best as a straight mystery, one involving many different people and their actions. Mr. Rickman takes these strands and weaves them together beautifully to the final outcome. The main character, the Rev. Merrily Watkins is still charming but slightly anxious in her role as Diocesan Exorcist, and the scenes involving church politics are spot on. Secondary characters are not relegated to "supporting role" status but are integral to the plot. I started reading on a Thursday afternoon and finished it the next day--it's that kind of book.
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Format: Hardcover
In this the seventh of his Merrily Watkins novels, Phil Rickman once again proves that you really can't get too much of a good thing. While The Smile of a Ghost does not find the Rev. Merrily Watkins in such dire or dark supernatural peril she has contended with previously, the demons she must face are just as chilling -- the possible elimination of her very role as Deliverance Minister by modernizing forces in the Church as well as by her own self-doubt. And this crisis couldn't have come at a worse time -- in the midst of a tragic trend of teen suicides, possibly influenced by a 12th century ghost and a very hauntingly real "ghost" of sorts from Merrily's Goth days of the more recent past.

In spite of this novel's thematic seriousness, Rickman manages to weave subtle strands of wit and humor throughout, and his astounding facility with character and dialogue only gets better with each book. Through his superb crafting of narrative perspective, the personalities of Rickman's characters seem to hijack their way from chapter to chapter with an amazing fluidity that makes the book very hard to put down.

If you're a regular reader of Rickman's novels, this newest one will not disappoint. If you're new to the novels of Phil Rickman, you're in for a treat. Either way, The Smile of a Ghost will leave a reader smiling.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The seventh Merrily Watkins book, this one tops the list. Rickman has the skill to present characters who are so real you are sure you know them, a plot so intriguing that you become engrossed in the action, and a way of writing the draws you on through the story. The dilemma is whether to spend time with the characters or turn the page and get on with the story. Here the venue of the mystery is almost a character in itself: what is it about the castle and the town which shapes the story? As always with Rickman one finds oneself on the border between the rational and the non-rational, the quotidian and the mysterious. One finishes with a respect for that which is finally beyond explanation but open to understanding.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is book 7 in the Merrily Watkins series. Merrily's under pressure, and so is the whole office of, well essentially exorcist for the Church of England. Merrily is forced to do her work with a committee who have no belief in the more woo woo stuff that Merrily has to deal with. This book deals with the apparent suicide of a young man related to a former police officer of Merrily's acquaintance. Merrily is called in because the tower is rumored to be haunted.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You don't want to be a lawyer or a psychiatrist in a Phil Rickman novel. If you show up, you'll be treated like dirt because you are dirt. However, it's okay to wander around with an embalmed baby in tow, and treat your live kin as if you wish they were dead. `Eccentric' is usually stretched to `lovable' in the Merrily Watkins mysteries, but I can't quite bring myself to love the crazy lady of this novel.

"The Smile of a Ghost" is very much about relatives and the awful things they do to each other, including driving the more vulnerable ones to suicide. When a fourteen-year-old boy who is mad about medieval history, takes a dive off of Ludlow Castle, people wonder whether it was a suicide, an accident, or murder.

By book's end, we are pretty sure it wasn't an accident or suicide, but are not positive as to the identity of the boy's killer. I personally didn't care for Merrily's suspect. The retired police officer's suspect was an evil twerp, but I was pretty sure he wouldn't work outside of his own turf. The one suspect that did make sense to me was the weird goth-woman's choice of killer, but I refuse to agree with her on anything. You'll have to decide for yourself.

Evidently bomb-makers are not the only type of terrorists working for Great Britain's National Health Services. You'll meet another type in "The Smile of a Ghost" that Lol had the misfortune to fall under the care of while he was incarcerated in a mental institution. When he composes a song about his experience, bad things begin to happen to him and Merrily. However, Lol solves his problem brilliantly and he is one of the real heroes of this complex, multi-layered mystery.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Another adventure for the vicar. I enjoy the character, Merrily Watkins, and her daughter Jane. The diocesan exorcist has yet to do a personal exorcism, but uncovers a great deal of very human crime and very inexplicable happenings every time.
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