- Series: Merrily Watkins Mysteries (Book 1)
- Paperback: 608 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (April 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0857890093
- ISBN-13: 978-0857890092
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Customer Reviews: 374 customer ratings
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #513,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Wine of Angels (Merrily Watkins Mysteries) Paperback – April 1, 2011
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I will write this upfront – I found The Wine of Angels simply brilliant. Phil Rickman wrote an astonishing novel that intertwines spirituality and the supernatural with an ancient mystery. If the reader will grant me a little bit of silliness, this novel was spellbinding. Mr. Rickman’s careful pacing, description and characterization elevated the story from merely good to magnificent. I might be writing a bit hyperbolic but I truly enjoyed this novel.
Mr. Rickman’s diction established the perfect tone for the novel. When characters were in suspenseful situations, I found myself gripping the chair a little harder with angst. When characters were happy, I was smiling like a fool at my Kindle. It was more than reading a story as a casual observer, I was living the story with the characters. The overall tone was of mystery. Mr. Rickman drove this mystery with a technique of ending sequences at the peak of maximum intrigue. I am not a fan of abrupt cutaways in a story, because often they feel like the author is holding the story over my head and to get the story back I have to pay up. That being written, I rather enjoyed the cutaways in this story. It helped that the majority of cutaways would be explained in a few pages — because, unlike other stories, the characters in this story communicate with each other. These cutaways also helped maintain the suspense that filled the novel.
There were moments of scattered supernatural experiences throughout the story which spoke to the larger theme of the novel. As a community our spirituality becomes shared and when one group’s spirituality becomes poisoned, it impacts the whole community. The story revolves around an ancient mystery, a vicar from the 1600s met with a fateful end under mysterious circumstances. This event poisoned the community and remained poisoned until the truth finally comes out centuries later. I was pleased with the satisfying conclusion of this mystery and felt it supported my interpretation of the theme. The other aspect of these supernatural events is the message of how we choose to develop our spirituality is unimportant, just so long as we do. This idea certainly gave me something to ponder.
I would be remiss in my review if I did not mention just how great were the characters. Each character went through complex changes throughout the course of the story and each had very human motivations driving them. I loved Mr. Rickman’s dialogue. I have heard it said that writers should not write phonetic accents but rather create accents through word choice. Well, Mr. Rickman did both, and I am grateful that he did. This helped me feel as if the characters were real. There were no cardboard cutouts deployed in this novel.
I would like to thank Mr. Rickman for putting in the extensive research for the novel. I always appreciate the level of detail that shines through in stories when an author does due diligence. I could tell that Mr. Rickman put forth considerable effort with his research and I appreciated it.
I enjoyed every minute I spent reading this novel. I found new friends with the characters and was pleased with the conclusion of the last chapter. Mr. Rickman wrote a fantastical tale of suspense and mystery but it never devolved into horror. If you are looking for an excellent mystery with supernatural elements, you cannot go wrong with this.
I was enamored of the book from the first few pages--the dialogue and descriptions made me feel as if I were watching a BBC mystery series. The small town characters felt so authentic, their dialogue and speech patterns characteristic not only of themselves, but of each of their personal histories in the town: the farmer, the traditional landowner, the incomers/nouveau riche, the powerful town pagan/hippy old maid, etc, Merrily's teenaged daughter Jane was especially empathetic and well done. The town history of cider-making, around which the book's central mystery revolves, was also beautifully drawn and mysterious.
My only complaint about the book is that the characters were such a large focus that the plot itself took a long time to develop. Several of their personal psychologies as revealed in their conversations with one another felt repetitive. I wished that a hundred pages could have been cut from the middle to get us to the last 25% of the book--until that point, we still aren't even sure of the nature of the mystery, and the "villain," so to speak, was revealed much too late imho. Still, I'm excited to watch the series--the setting and characters are genius, and in TV they can skip you past the repetition to keep the action moving.
I was checking out another author's web site & found Phil Rickman's book listed on that authors "Methadone List". Figured I really enjoy that authors writings so I'd take her recommendation to heart. She was spot on!
I just found my newest series - there's only 12 books in this one. One request tho, Phil, you might want add a dictionary for British slang & a bit for the dialect. I really enjoyed the time I spent with Merrily Watkins & company. Now I just have to get the husband off my computer so I can order several more of this series. Happy reading folks ~P~
Top international reviews
This is the first Merrily Watkins novel and we find her with her daughter Jane taking up residence in this small town as Merrily is the latest incumbent of the parish church. Before she takes up her position as the priest-in-charge so she visits a festival in the area, where a man apparently shoots himself. And when she takes up residence she finds that there are certain antagonisms amongst certain neighbours and families in the area.
With death and disappearances, is there really something supernatural going on or can everything be explained in more down to earth terms? Taking in old superstitions and rituals of Herefordshire and its reliance on its land for produce so we have a clash of ideas with the position of the Church of England, and also the image that Ledwardine is being forced to take with regards to tourism.
Does Merrily see spectres, or is it just dreaming, and does Jane see a glimpse of the world of the Fae, or is it just drunkenness? These ideas wind themselves around the whole tale as a girl suddenly goes missing, and the local pagan authority in the area dies in a road accident, along with other incidents.
What I really enjoyed about this tale was its multi-faceted approach to what is a crime story, which really brings to life the people and the area, making us all see the different values and ambitions of these people, with regards to their lives, ideas and work.
In a setting where tradition and superstition is more rife than in a large town or city this is quite involved, but does make for a very good and enjoyable read. Perhaps the easiest way to explain this would be something like the TV series Midsomer Murders on steroids.
As an introduction to the many other books in the same series this book was a success for me and I've actually enjoyed each of the subsequent stories more and more. The authors style has grown on me too. Well worth a read for something a bit different and closer to detective fiction with a little ghost story (is it or isn't it) thrown in.
This is about real village lives, and not in a glossy, always Sun shining way. It's hearty and gritty and dirty and wholesome and repulsive and earth moving. It won't appeal to all but I've downloaded the next two and I will never look at an apple or a glass of cider in the same way - oh and download Nick Drake' s albums. Two of the most haunting tracks are: 'Way to Blue' & 'Fruit Tree'! Fabulous read
Forget cosy, either from village life or from the Church of England. These are real, complex, very human characters, several with extreme trauma in their hidden pasts. As things become more entangled and greater stakes are played for, the situation starts to coalesce around a missing sixteen year-old girl and the apparent breakdown of Merrily as she becomes more and more convinced, against her will, that the rambling vicarage that is now home is, in fact, haunted.
First rate writing, wonderful characters and a terrific ear for dialogue, I can't wait to read the next instalment.
I have in fact downloaded some more of the Merrily Watkins Series, together with a few more Phil Rickman stories, onto my kindle.
The Wine of Angels, the first one of the M W series, is one terrific tale. O.K. so she is a vicar, or as indicated, Priest in Charge, but nothing like the real holy and pure sort of person you would imagine. In fact quite the opposite, very normal in every respect,but fights for what she believes.
In this novel she solves a 300 year old secret,much to the distrust of the richest family of the village, as it directly involves him.
The tale is told in a most excellent way, and keeps you on the edge of your seat all the way through.
A terrific read. I will in time collect the whole series, as I enjoyed the first one so much.
Well done Paul Rickman, on a great series.
Read and enjoy
Will write further reviews on this series as I download and read them.
Basically, this is not your tradition thriller, with twists and turns. It's a story about real people fighting against bigotry and their own misgiving and insecurities. Followed by the thriller part towards the end, which shocks you because you don't see it coming. Well worth taking a punt at.
Merrily Watkins and her daughter Jane move to Ledwardine, where Merrily is to be the new priest in charge. But this Hereford village is not what it seems and soon Merrily is caught up with a secret from the past which is as strong as it ever had bern.
This was a brilliant book. All the characters are strong and real and the book is very atmospheric.
I can't recommend it highly enough.
The novel moves along at quite a pace. This is surprising, because the first half is largely scene-setting. There's a tantalising supernatural element to the mystery of Ledwardine, and particularly its orchard, which always seems to loom in the background, almost like one of those creepy woods you used to see in old black and white horror movies. One local, an older lady called Lucy, says that the old guy's suicide, which took place in the orchard, has offended the spirits there, and Merrily's daughter Jane has a drunken out-of-body experience there which leads her to befriend Lucy and start to believe what the old lady's saying. Merrily, meanwhile, gets caught up in a local wrangle over a festival and a playwright's wish to stage a production in the church about a 17th century priest who was persecuted and hung (in the orchard, no less) for supposedly being a witch. All the while she's having nightmares involving her dead husband and ghostly goings-on in the vicarage into which she and Jane have moved.
It's how Rickman orchestrated these - and other - subplots, introduced a large cast of supporting characters, most of whom are suspicious or unpleasant on one level or another, and brought them all together that I found really entertaining. I think the book is probably about 150 pages too long, but the end is quite exciting, the characters well developed, and it left me wanting to spend more time with them. I'm hoping that, now all the scene-setting has been done, the next book will be even better.
The Kindle edition is excellent - 90p well spent, I think!