Merrily Watkins Books in Order: How to read Phil Rickman’s series?

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Coming from British author Phil Rickman, the Merrily Watkins series is about tales of murder, mystery, and intrigue. The story revolves around Merrily Watkins–parish priest and single mum–who is a Deliverance Consultant, a position also known as Diocesan Exorcist. As the advisor on the Paranormal for the Diocese of Hereford, Merrily has to work with psychiatrists and the police to investigate the unexplainable, but also murders!

How to read the Merrily Watkins Series in Order?

Each entry in the Merrily Watkins book series offers a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one book to the other.

  1. The Wine of Angels (1998) – The new vicar had never wanted a picture postcard parish – or a huge and haunted vicarage. Nor had she wanted to walk into a dispute over a controversial play about a seventeenth-century clergyman accused of witchcraft… a story that certain long-established families would rather remain obscure. But this is Ledwardine, steeped in cider and secrets… A paradise of cobbled streets and timber-framed houses. And also – as Merrily Watkins and her teenage daughter, Jane, discover – a village where horrific murder is a tradition that spans centuries.
  2. Midwinter of the Spirit (1999) – Diocesan Exorcist: a job viewed by the Church of England with such extreme suspicion that they changed the name. It’s Deliverance Consultant now. Still, it seems, no job for a woman. But when the Bishop offers it to Merrily Watkins, parish priest and single mother, she’s in no position to refuse. It starts badly for Merrily and gets no easier. As an early winter slices through the old city of Hereford, a body is found in the River Wye, an ancient church is desecrated, and signs of evil appear in the cathedral itself, where the tomb of a medieval saint lies in pieces.
  3. A Crown of Lights (2001) – When a redundant church is bought by a young pagan couple, the local fundamentalist minister reacts with fury. In an isolated community on the Welsh border, a modern witch hunt begins. Diocesan exorcist Merrily Watkins is expected to keep the lid on the cauldron, but what she finds out will seriously test her beliefs. Also, there’s the problem of the country lawyer who won’t be parted from his dead wife; the mystery of five ancient churches all dedicated to St. Michael, slayer of dragons; and a killer with an old tradition to guard.
  1. The Cure of Souls (2001) – In Herefordshire’s hop-growing country, where the river flows as dark as beer, a converted kiln is the scene of a savage murder. When the local vicar refuses to help its new owners cope with the aftermath, diocesan exorcist Merrily Watkins is sent in by the Bishop. Already involved in the case of a schoolgirl whose mother thinks she’s possessed by evil, the hesitant Merrily is drawn into a deadly tangle of deceit, corruption, and sexual menace as she uncovers the secrets of a village with a past as twisted as the hop-bines which once enclosed it.
  2. The Lamp of the Wicked (2002) – After half a century of decay, the village of Underhowle looked to be on the brink of a new prosperity. Now, instead, it seems destined for notoriety as the home of a psychotic serial killer. DI Francis Bliss, of Hereford CID, is convinced he knows where the bodies are buried. But Merrily Watkins, called in to conduct a controversial funeral, wonders if Bliss isn’t blinkered by personal ambition. And are the Underhowle deaths really linked to perhaps the most sickening killings in British criminal history?
  3. The Prayer of the Night Shepherd (2004) – A crumbling hotel on the border of England and Wales, a suggestion of inherited evil, a strange love affair, and the long-disputed origins of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. Fascinating for young Jane Watkins, flushed by the freedom of her first-weekend job. But the sinister side becomes increasingly apparent to her mother, Merrily, diocesan exorcist for Hereford. Then come memories of a child-killer, blood in the fresh snow.
  1. The Smile of a Ghost (2005) – In the affluent, historic town of Ludlow, a teenage boy dies in a fall from the castle ruins. Accident or suicide? No great mystery-so why does the boy’s uncle, retired detective Andy Mumford, turn to diocesan exorcist Merrily Watkins? More people will die before Merrily, her own future uncertain, uncovers a dangerous obsession with suicide, death, and the afterlife hidden within these shadowed medieval streets.
  2. The Remains of an Altar (2006) – 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 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.
  3. The Fabric of Sin (2007) – Called in secretly to investigate an allegedly haunted house with royal connections, Merrily Watkins, deliverance consultant for the Diocese of Hereford, is exposed to a real and tangible evil. A hidden valley on the border of England and Wales preserves a longtime feud between two border families as well as an ancient Templar church with a secret that may be linked to a famous ghost story. On her own and under pressure with the nights drawing in, the hesitant Merrily has never been less sure of her ground. Meanwhile, Merrily’s closest friend, songwriter Lol Robinson, is drawn into the history of his biggest musical influence, the tragic Nick Drake, and finds himself troubled by Drake’s eerie autumnal song “The Time of No Reply.”
  1. To Dream of the Dead (2008) – December in vicar and exorcist Merrily Watkins’ village of Ledwardine, and the river is rising. The village has never been flooded in living memory. Within days it will be an island. There’s no electricity. The church is serving as a temporary mortuary for two people who drowned. Only one man feels safer. An aggressively-atheist author has been moved, for his own safety, Rushdie-style, into a secluded house just outside the village. Fundamentalist Christians have hated him for years. Now he’s offended the Muslims. Bad move.
  2. The Secrets of Pain (2011) – Syd Spicer, ex-SAS trooper, has found himself back in the Regiment, this time as its chaplain, responsible for the spiritual welfare of the hardest men in or out of uniform. Faced with a case that would normally be passed discreetly to Hereford diocesan exorcist Merrily Watkins, Spicer is forced, for security reasons, to try and handle it himself, and is coming close to a breakdown. Meanwhile, when a wealthy landowner is hacked to death in his own farmyard, the senior investigating officer DI Frannie Bliss is caught in the backlash, his private life in danger of exposure. With the framework of her own world beginning to crack, Merrily is persuaded to venture into areas where neither a priest nor a woman is welcome to unearth secrets linked with the border’s pagan past–secrets that she knows can never be disclosed.
  3. The Magus of Hay (2013) – A man’s body is found below a waterfall. It looks like suicide or an accidental drowning–until DI Frannie Bliss enters the dead man’s home. What he finds there sends him to Merrily Watkins, the Diocese of Hereford’s official advisor on the paranormal. It’s been nearly 40 years since Hay was declared an independent state by its self-styled king-a development seen at the time as a joke, a publicity scam. But behind this pastiche, a dark design was taking shape, creating a hidden history of murder and ritual–magic, the relics of which are only now becoming horribly visible. It’s a situation that will take Merrily Watkins–alone for the first time in years–to the edge of madness.
  1. The House of Susan Lulham (2014) – The angular, modernist house was an unexpected bargain for Zoe and Jonathan Mahonie-newcomers to the city of Hereford and apparently unaware that the house’s pristine, white interior walls had been coated with the lifeblood of a previous owner. How is Merrily Watkins, diocesan exorcist for Hereford, to know if Zoe Mahonie is lying or deluded when she claims that the wrathful Susan Lulham is still in residence? Then comes another bloody death. Who is the real killer?
  2. Friends of the Dusk (2015) – In the moody countryside on the edge of Wales, a rambling 12th-century house is thought to be haunted. Although its new owners don’t believe in ghosts, they do believe in spiritual darkness and the need for an exorcism. But their approach to Merrily Watkins is oblique and guarded. No one can be told-least of all, the new bishop. Merrily’s discovery of the house’s links with the medieval legend of a man who resisted mortality threatens to expose the hidden history of a more modern cult and its trail of insidious abuse-a trail that may not be closed.
  3. All of a Winter’s Night (2017) – It begins in the fog, with a bleak village funeral. In the early hours of the following morning, Merrily Watkins and her daughter Jane are made aware that Aidan Lloyd, son of a wealthy farmer, will not be resting in peace. A rural tradition is displaying its sinister side as an old feud reignites. It’s already a fraught time for Merrily, her future threatened by a bishop committed to restricting her role as deliverance consultant, or diocesan exorcist. Suddenly there are events she can’t talk about as she and Jane find themselves potentially on the wrong side of the law.
  1. The Fever of the World (2022) – The curious death of an estate agent is being investigated by detective David Vaynor who, before joining the police, studied the famous 18th-century poet William Wordsworth. As Vaynor discovers, the dark paganism that changed Wordsworth’s life still lingers on the banks of the River Wye today – and there are some killings even the police can’t approach… Enter Merrily Watkins. Called away from her local hauntings, Merrily finds herself confronting the riverside ghosts who, as Wordsworth puts it, ‘promote ill purposes and flatter foul desires’. In the ancient heart of the Wye Valley, a buried grudge is about to come to light.
  2. The Echo of Crows (2024) – Nestled deep in the Black Mountains, the village of Longtown is haunted by the double suicide of a lottery winner and his wife. A rich Londoner, unaware of the town’s dark history, buys the dead man’s cottage in the hopes of refurbishing it…then begins to fall victim to a host of bad luck. Luckily DS David Vaynor and Merrily Watkins–parish priest, single mum and renowned demon exorcist–are on the case.

  • Merrily’s Border: The Places in Herefordshire & the Marches Behind the Merrily Watkins Novels (with photographer John Mason) – The novels are all set in actual locations – mostly in Herefordshire, but also in Shropshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, and over the border into Wales: a region that remains one of Britain’s best-kept secrets. This new and extended edition includes the settings of The House of Susan Lulham, Friends of the Dusk, All of a Winter’s Night and For the Hell of It. The fiction is never far from an often surprising and sometimes disturbing reality. Revealing the sources and inspiration, Merrily’s Border takes readers into a land where the ancient mystery is never far below the surface.

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