Some Halloween Reading: The Cure of Souls, by Phil Rickman

The Cure of Souls (Merrily Watkins, #4)The Devil and Merrily Watkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The (fictional) Church of England, wishing to change the perception of the medieval concept of exorcism, has formed a new branch, Deliverance Ministry. Selected to lead this new endeavor is the Reverend Merrily Watkins, divorced single mom who is devoted to bringing her religion in line with current secular thinking. Merrily is requested to consult on the case of an adolescent girl whose mother suspects demonic possession. Merrily is concerned, becoming even more so when she hears that her own 16 year old daughter may play a role in this problem. At the same time, the reverend becomes reluctantly involved in an even more ominous case, reverberations from a gruesome murder that took place in a hop-kiln that’s being converted to a residence. Soon Merrily finds herself embroiled in local politics, past and present, and a malignant force too murky to be identified.

Set in England’s picturesque, historic Marches, The Cure of Souls is a seamless blend of mystery and paranormal elements, one that incorporates historic themes (the Lady of the Bines) and modern pressures that are all too real. Rickman writes beautifully, with subtlety, and it’s often hard to decide what’s “real” and what’s supernatural. Though classified as horror, his Watkins series might more accurately be considered as eerily suspenseful, rarely containing the stuff of nightmares, and this is what makes them so compelling and credible. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, the existence of evil is virtually certain, and Rickman’s novels, with their engaging characters and intelligent, riveting plots, should captivate fans of both mystery and the paranormal.

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