A book by Phil Rickman.
I’ve been just _wallowing_ in this book for several days. Rickman is one of my favorites; he has the sort of characters you know and treasure, who have reality and depth and get deeper as they go along. To say nothing of flat-out wonderful, evocative writing, terrific plots, and a marvelously creepy strand of the supernatural twining like smoke through the story.
THE SECRETS OF PAIN is the latest in his Merrily Watkins series. The Reverend Watkins is an Anglican priest, widowed, with an unpredictable teenaged daughter—and is the official Exorcist (though the Church now prefers to refer to her discreetly as a “Deliverance consultant”) for the Diocese of Hereford. Merrily smokes like a chimney, is having an affair with the emotionally-damaged rock musician across the road, and wrestles constantly with the knowledge that most of the world thinks what she does is irrelevant at best and at worst, insane.
THE SECRETS OF PAIN involves—as one might expect—secrets of various kinds. The Official kind—Hereford is the homebase for the SAS, one of the most elite and secretive regiments in Her Majesty’s armed forces—the political kind (wherein the forces of commercialism and modernity threaten the increasingly fragile tradition and history of a very old part of the country)—and the supernatural kind, where “men with birds’ heads walk out of the river mist” and a _very_ old and bloody religion proves not to be quite gone.
Besides the wonderful characters and story-telling, what I like best about Phil’s work is the ongoing conversation throughout the series between religion and secular society, the subtle questions about the nature (and power) of belief. These are beautifully layered books, that can be re-read periodically—and the release of a new one is always a great excuse to go back and start all over with the first volume, THE WINE OF ANGELS. Which I propose to go and do, directly after I finish work tomorrow.
Posted on Diana’s blog on January 10, 2012.