Phil Rickman lives on the Welsh border where he writes and presents the book programme Phil the Shelf on BBC Radio Wales. He is the hugely popular author of The Bones of Avalon and the Merrily Watkins series.
Contains scenes some viewers may find disturbing...Leo Defford doesn't believe in ghosts. But, as the head of an independent production company, he does believe in high-impact TV. Defford hires journalist Grayle Underhill to research the history of Knap Hall, a one-time Tudor farmhouse that became the ultimate luxury guest house...until tragedy put it back on the market. Its recent history isn't conducive to a quick sale, but Defford isn't interested in keeping Knap Hall for longer than it takes to make a reality TV show that will run night after night...A house isolated by its rural situation and its dark reputation. Seven people, nationally known, but strangers to one another, locked inside. But this time, Big Brother may not be in control.
The castle was moonlight-vast, all its ages fused together by the shadows, chimney stacks like the backs of hands turned black...Hay-on-Wye: a eccentric medieval town known for its dozens of secondhand bookshops...and for having its own king. Now in the grip of recession, Hay is fighting for its future. Not the best time to open a bookshop, but Robin and Betty are desperate, and only Betty worries about the oppressive atmosphere of the shop they're renting. Merrily Watkins, diocesan exorcist for nearby Hereford, knows little about Hay until a body is found in the dark pool below a waterfall on the outskirts of the town and the police ask her to assist. The dead man's peculiar interests will open a passage to the hidden heart of Hay and a secret history of magic and ritual murder. And Merrily is alone and vulnerable as never before...
The Prayer of the Night ShepherdA 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. Young Jane Watkins is fascinated, but her mother, Merrily, Diocesan Exorcist, can soon see the sinister side. Especially when blood appears in the fresh snow.The Smile of a GhostIn the affluent, historic town of Ludlow, a teenage boy dies in a fall from the castle ruins. Accident or suicide? And why does the boy's uncle turn to exoricist Merrily Watkins? Merrily must work fast as the death toll rises, but there is a dangerous obsession lurking in these shadowed medieval streets.
A thrilling collection starring the intriguing Merrily Watkins - late thirties, single mum, and diocesan exorcistThe Cure of SoulsWhen the local vicar refuses to help his parishioners in the aftermath of a savage murder, 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, Merrily is drawn into a deadly tangle of deceit as she uncovers the twisted secrets of the village's past.The Lamp of the WickedA serial killer is on the loose in the small village of Underhowle. DI Francis Bliss is convinced he knows where the bodies are buried. But Merrily wonders if Bliss isn't blinkered by personal ambition. And are the Underhowle deaths really linked to some of the most sickening killings in British history?
December, and the river is rising. The village of Ledwardine 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. Meanwhile, archaeologists, assisted by Merrily's teenage daughter, Jane, are at work in Coleman's Meadow, unearthing an ancient row of standing stones which some people would rather stay buried. The atheist's temporary home is close to the site. And his young wife is becoming conspicuously agitated. Is it the fear of discovery -- or the kind of fear that she, of all people, could never disclose? One thing is clear: the last person who's going to be welcome in that house is an exorcist. With the flood water washing up Church Lane towards the vicarage and the shop running out of cigarettes it looks like a cold and complex Christmas for Merrily Watkins in an ancient community forced to untangle its own history against the swirling uncertainty of the future.
NOW A MAJOR ITV DRAMA The Master House, close to the Welsh border, is medieval and slowly falling into ruins. Now the house and its surrounding land have been sold to the Duchy of Cornwall. But the Duchy's plans to renovate the house and its outbuildings are frustrated when the specialist builder refuses to work there. 'This is a place,' he tells the Prince's land-steward, 'that doesn't want to be restored.' Directed by the Bishop of Hereford to investigate, deliverance consultant Merrily Watkins discovers ancient connections between the house and the nearby church, built by the Knights Templar whose shadow still envelopes isolated Garway Hill and its scattered communities. Why did all the local inns have astrological names? What deep history lies behind the vicious feud between two local families? And what happened here to intimidate even the great Edwardian ghost-story writer M R James? When Merrily learns that she - and even her daughter, Jane - are under surveillance by the security services, she's ready to quit. But a sudden death changes everything, and she returns to Garway to uncover fibres of fear and hatred stitched into history and now insidiously twisted in the corridors - and the cloisters - of power.
NOW A MAJOR ITV DRAMA Merrily Watkins, parish priest, single mum and Deliverance Consultant to the Diocese of Hereford, heads for the Malvern Hills to investigate an alleged paranormal dimension to a spate of road accidents in the sleepy village of Wychehill. Merrily is called in when two people are killed in a head-on crash that is also linked to the revamped local pub which, it seems, has injected the valley with a shattering, strobing surge of inner-city nightlife... and drugs. When a dealer is found savagely murdered below the great earthen hillfort of Herefordshire Beacon, police ask: is it a ritual killing, a gangland disposal or a cry of outrage? As Merrily and the police follow separate paths towards the truth, Merrily's teenage daughter, Jane, faces the consequences of her own obsession with a possibly prehistoric site in their home village of Ledwardine. Until, on a night of frenzied violence, in a place at the centre of an ancient, universal mystery, the final, shocking connections are made.