Thursday, June 02, 2005

Supernatural crime

I've just read two books by Phil Rickman, recently described to me as a must-read supernatural crime writer. I checked out as many books as I could get of his from the library, only four unfortunately; the more recent ones looked best, but past experience has taught me that you must start with the earliest one, otherwise you read the really great recent ones where the writer's perfected the technique and the early ones look flat in comparison, whereas you would have liked them a lot if you'd just read them in the order they were written. So first I read Rickman's first novel Candlelight, atmospheric horror in Wales, quite good but a little clunky in the writing (and surely very annoying to read if you happened to be Welsh!). Enjoyable, in other words, but nothing exceptional. Then I read Lamp Of The Wicked, which is probably the (I'm guessing) third or fourth in the series featuring Merrily Watkins, Anglican vicar and exorcist. And it's really excellent! Including a very sinister fact/fiction blend in the invocation of the Fred West case.... Rickman's not the most striking stylist in the world (he's got a habit I particularly dislike, though I see how it's tempting & I expect I fall into it myself, of marking a character's regional accent with the token stereotyped verbal tic, popping an "anyroad" into the Yorkshire guy's speech and a few "wivs" and such into the Cockney guy's and ... etc., without really having the characters speak in different patterns). But aside from that, this book's really excellent, very exactly the kind of novel I like. Creepy, persuasive, great story-telling, extremely compelling characters. I still in this vein most love Susan Howatch, but I can't wait to read all of Rickman's others--I foresee an Amazon splurge coming on after I read the other two I've got from the library.... (Thanks to Alexis Soloski for the recommendation.)

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