The Secrets of Pain by Phil Rickman

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The Secrets of Pain by Phil Rickman

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: Merrily Watkins' job is a tricky one - she's an exorcist. Rural Hereford currently has a spate of nasty, brutal, bloody and altogether strange incidents and Merrily's expertise is required - along with other professionals.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: September 2011
Publisher: Corvus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1848872738

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It's a freezing winter's night and a couple of the locals are driving home when they come across a strange and disturbing incident. They don't know what to make of it but as the SAS have a training presence in the area Gomer and Danny put it down to exercises and breath a sigh of relief. It's anything for a quiet life round these parts and thanks to Rickman's excellent writing, we soon see that these men, Gomer especially, are characters in themselves. Plenty of personality. Once seen, difficult to forget. And I didn't want to forget them. They also speak in the local dialect which comes across very well indeed.

We then meet Merrily and her daughter in the local pub. And although Merrily wears a dog collar (hate that description), she's refreshingly modern and unstuffy. She drinks and swears (the former in moderation, the latter less so) and has a 'boyfriend' Lol. I loved her down-to-earthiness right from the start. They are discussing this recent 'event' which has kind of spooked Gomer and Danny, regardless of what they say. Hard to blow an ole Volvo off the road says someone in the group. But the chat soon turns to local, rural matters.

I must admit that for the first couple of chapters I was finding it a little difficult to connect fully with the story and the characters, if I'm honest. I wasn't appreciating the quirkiness - but I did later on. The locals (and there's a fair number to get to grips with) also boast the odd quirky nickname. But I soon recovered from this initial hiccup as I read further into the story and Rickman's terrific style started to impress me.

His chapter headings are also creative and fresh which I loved. Chapter 3 is entitled Wet Cassock, for example and yes, it is intriguing. We start to get some background on the soon-to-be forty single mum, Merrily. She struck me as an empathetic but also bright and breezy character. And someone who would be a good and loyal friend.

There's the true locals and then there's the 'pretend' locals. People with bags of money, usually relocating from London and who don't really understand the countryside. There's a terrific, caustic description from Rickman That too-perfect combination of plaid workshirt and Timberland-type boots ... and the Rolex. There's a smattering of posh double-barreled names just to annoy the locals even further - and it seems to work. Tension is in the air, not helped by the fact that a local wealthy landowner has been murdered recently.

Enter the local police headed up by DI Bliss. He's a terrifically believable character, thanks to Rickman. He's moody, mouthy, got plenty of baggage, swears like a trooper, drinks like a ... (get the picture?). His street-savvy conversations either with his colleagues or with the locals are a joy to read and his accent comes to the fore when his temper is hot. Rickman has created some really good characters in this rather complex story.

There's also a good dose of humour throughout which I really appreciated. I laughed out loud several times. Let me just give you a tiny sample. Bliss (great name for a moody sod) and one of his investigating team are deep in conversation with lovely lines such as House-to-house. Well ... farm-to-farm. In the four-by-four and as I can see the dead-pan delivery, it makes it all the more funny and enjoyable. The police dialogue is spot-on and really stood out for me.

I hadn't come across Rickman until now. This book is the latest in the Merrily Watkins series. It was so good that I would happily read all of the previous books. An intricate book with delightful characters and sparkling dialogue. Thoroughly recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might like to try The Bones of Avalon also by Phil Rickman.

Buy The Secrets of Pain by Phil Rickman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Secrets of Pain by Phil Rickman at

Buy The Secrets of Pain by Phil Rickman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Secrets of Pain by Phil Rickman at


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