The Remains of an Altar

The Remains of an Altar

3.5 2
by Phil Rickman
     
 

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In 1934, the dying composer Sir Edward Elgar feebly whistled to a friend the theme from his Cello Concerto and said, "If you're walking on the Malvern Hills and hear that, don't be frightened. It's only me." Seventy years later, Merrily Watkins—parish priest and Deliverance Consultant to the Diocese of Hereford—is called in to investigate an alleged

Overview

In 1934, the dying composer Sir Edward Elgar feebly whistled to a friend the theme from his Cello Concerto and said, "If you're walking on the Malvern Hills and hear that, don't be frightened. It's only me." Seventy years later, Merrily Watkins—parish priest and Deliverance Consultant to the Diocese of Hereford—is called in to investigate an alleged paranormal dimension in a spate of road accidents in the Malvern village of Wychehill. There, Merrily discovers new tensions in Elgar's countryside. The proposed takeover of a local pub by a nightclub owner with a criminal reputation has become the battleground between the defenders of Olde Englande and the hard men of the drug world—with extreme and sinister elements on both sides. And as the choral society prepares to stage an open-air performance of Elgar's Caractacus at a prehistoric hill fort, the deaths begin…Another spellbinding thriller in Phil Rickman's lauded occult mystery series.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In what may be the most captivating mystery to date in Rickman's Merrily Watkins series (after 2006's The Smile of a Ghost), victims in several car accidents near the Malvern village of Wychehill report swerving to avoid ghosts. One doesn't have to be a believer in the paranormal to become engrossed as Merrily, parish priest and exorcism consultant, examines connections that some have made to the famous English composer, Elgar, who once lived in Wychehill and is venerated by many residents of the town. As the investigation takes Merrily deeper and deeper into the lives of the villagers, her teenage daughter is fighting her own battle at home against a proposed housing development that will destroy what's considered ancient sacred space. Rickman provides (at some length) meticulous historical background on Elgar and vivid descriptions that create the backdrop for an unusual cast of characters and a dramatic, thrilling conclusion. (Dec.)

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Kirkus Reviews
The spirit of Edward Elgar, Britain's greatest ecclesiastical composer, haunts the byroads of the village of Wychehill. In his latest, Jane, the 17-year-old daughter of Merrily Watkins, Deliverance Consultant for the Church of England, is about to be expelled from school for upsetting the local councilmen who wish to bulldoze Coleman Meadow and erect 24 luxury estate houses on the site. Jane believes the hillside represents a worship area that harks back to the Druids and should be left intact. Complicating matters, Merrily has been called in by the local vicar, Syd Spicer, ex-SAS, to conduct an exorcism of the bicycle-pedaling ghost of Sir Edward Elgar, whose sightings have caused numerous accidents along the road. Meanwhile, Tim Loste, a local choirmaster obsessed with Elgar and goaded by a hippie-dippie occult writer, not only seems determined to recreate a Perpetual Choir that will restore balance and harmony to the earth, but may have sliced and diced a drug dealer working near an ancient sacrificial stone. Merrily's musician lover Lol provides help in analyzing Elgar's music and entree to anthropologist Alfred Watkins (no relation) and horror writer Algernon Blackwood; Jane relies on a crusty septuagenarian for aid. Rickman (The Smile of a Ghost, 2005, etc.) is equally enamored of historical scholarship, ectoplasmic sleight-of-hand and village rumor-mongering. Readers will be left with an urge to wander the English countryside while whistling Elgar's tunes. Be advised, however, that the dark doings unfold at a stately pace.
From the Publisher

"Compassionate, original, and sharply contemporary. Rickman’s crime series is one of the best around."  —The Spectator

"First rate. A passionate, flawed, modern woman, every bit as concerned with the intricacies of crime as with demons that go bump in the night."  —Daily Mail

"Probably his best book."  —Sunday Telegraph

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781905204519
Publisher:
Quercus
Publication date:
04/01/2007
Series:
Merrily Watkins Mysteries, #8
Pages:
544
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.56(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Compassionate, original, and sharply contemporary. Rickman’s crime series is one of the best around."  —The Spectator

"First rate. A passionate, flawed, modern woman, every bit as concerned with the intricacies of crime as with demons that go bump in the night."  —Daily Mail

"Probably his best book."  —Sunday Telegraph

Meet the Author

Phil Rickman is the author of the Merrily Watkins Mysteries series. Julie Maisey has appeared in The Bill, Eastenders and many sit-coms including Birds of a Feather and Holding the Baby.

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