My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Southeastern Wales, December, 1980. A newly constituted progressive rock band, Philosopher’s Stone, gathers for a recording session in a new, purpose-built studio in the ruins of a spooky medieval abbey. Each of the members has a bit of renown, and each possesses more than a modicum of psychic ability. This recording session promises to deliver great, dramatic results, and it does. And then it ends badly, very badly.
The group burns their session tapes and disbands, and the first half of December follows each member, attempting to pick up the pieces and regain some semblance of normalcy. But fourteen years later, a pirated version of the ill fated session emerges. With dread and reluctance, they reunite, determined to face up to what happened and vanquish the seemingly invisible forces that caused it. The second half of the book follows that process.
December suffers from excessive length, but that said, the plot is a compelling and mysterious one. What actually happened that fateful week in 1980? What will happen when the band revisits the scene? Wales is a well-known depository of folklore and magical tales, and this plot draws heavily from it. The cast of characters is an engaging one, encompassing not only the musicians but their families and close associates, including, astonishingly, John Lennon. The story plays out not only from the perspective of the major players, but also from that of many of the secondary ones, and these multiple points of view add to the richness. The cataclysmic ending is not a happy one, and leaves many questions unanswered, but part of the charm of reading Rickman is having the latitude to draw one’s own conclusions.
Footnote: The author has collaborated with friends in the music business to release an album of the songs recorded by Philosopher’s Stone, The Abbey Tapes. He has done the same with music from his Merrily Watkins series. Interesting….. Samples can be heard on Amazon.