Last week I introduced the notion and value of buying a book in the middle of a series. When
opportunity knocks – seize it!
In January 2005, I walked into Simple Things, a small boutique store in Mahone Bay, N.S. The
store was a nice gift shop and they carried a small selection of new books and a larger selection
of children’s books. My eye was drawn to a book by Phil Rickman called The Smile of a Ghost,
A Merrily Watkins Mystery. The dust jacket had a picture of a timbered building and the steeple
of a gothic church in the background. And it was a first edition in fine condition – just published
by MacMillan, London.
I read the series of laudatory quotations on the back of the book and then the blurb. The first
paragraph sold me on buying the book – it was set in Ludlow, in Shropshire on the border with
Wales, and the setting includes the ruins of its castle. I had been to Ludlow a few years earlier
and I saw Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” in the courtyard. This was the seventh in this
hauntingly unique mystery series.
I started into the book right away and it was done shortly thereafter. I always make a small
notation in pencil inside a book when I finish. This one reads “Read 2007. A really great read.
Must get others in series” And I did!
The first book in the series is The Wine of Angels published in 1998. The first edition was not
easy to find in fine condition. I bought my copy in July, 2009 for C$433. As I mentioned in last
week’s musing, if I did not wish to read a book mid-series, I would not have bought this book
and would have to find that first edition, first book at a much higher price and I wouldn’t know if I
liked the author or not.
I now have enjoyed all 15 books in the series and the 16th is coming out shortly. All books have
been printed in paperback form and readily available. Chapters has a paperback copy of The
Wine of Angels for $17.52 at this moment.
The protagonist, Merrily Watkins, is a single mom and is an Anglican priest as well as being the
Deliverance consultant to the diocese of Hereford. There are a number of recurring personalities
and Rickman does a wonderful job of character development. The Hereford/Welsh countryside
with all its dark undersides of belief is a major character.
Rickman has written stand alone books and short series with other protagonists including Dr. Dee.