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The Smile of a Ghost (Merrily Watkins Mysteries) Hardcover – November 1, 2005
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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.
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"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.
But if Lol can show enough maturity to confront an evil psychiatrist from his past, why can't he and Merrily stop sneaking into each other's bedrooms and just get hitched? It should put a stop to the poison-pen letters once and for all. Does anyone recall a reason why they shouldn't get married? Bishop Bernie could officiate in his purple shirt, and Gomer Parry, the manic digger-for-hire could be the best man. Jane, pagan that she is, could be the maid-of-honor. Let's drop all of this artificial angst and get on with life. Lucy, one of the many ghosts in this novel would certainly smile on the union.
This edition also includes some photographs of the area, which only roots the series even more firmly in reality. It really is a nice addition! Rickman's books really have it all - plot, setting, characters - all masterfully crafted. And while the books may lack some of the "flash-and-bang" showiness, they are still quite exciting and just so authentic feeling!