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New Phil Rickman novel

18 June 2007

A couple of days ago my wife found a Phil Rickman novel in a bookshop, and bought it immediately. It was The remains of an altar, a Merrily Watkins novel.

For some reason I don’t understand, Phil Rickman’s novels are hard to find in bookshops, so we have to get them whenever we see them — in remainder sales, or in supermarket special offer piles. But that is strange, because the only time one ever sees them is when they’ve been remaindered. They never seem to be on normal sale.

The first one I read, Candlenight, seemed to be a British attempt at a Stephen King novel, of the horror/ghost story genre. Rickman’s novels often have the same characters in them, but he didn’t really hit his stride until he came up with the Revd Merrily Watkins, “deliverance consultant” for the Church of England Diocese of Hereford.

They are tending to become more like straightforward crime novels, to judge by the latest offering, and the spooky and supernatural element is played down, so it’s less like Stephen King and more like Ruth Rendell. But Rickman writes as well as either of them, so the biggest mystery is why it’s so hard to find his books in bookshops.

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