The Remains of an Altar

The Remains of an Altar

By (author) Phil Rickman

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Merrily Watkins, parish priest, single mum and Deliverance consultant to the Diocese of Hereford, heads for the Malvern Hills in the latest installment of Phil Rickman's acclaimed series of 'first class thrillers with a difference' ("The Guardian"). In 1934, the dying composer Edward Elgar feebly whistled to a friend the theme from his Cello Concerto and said, 'If ever you're walking on the Malvern Hills and hear that, don't be frightened. It's only me.' Over seventy years later, Merrily is called in to investigate an alleged paranormal dimension to a spate of road accidents in the Malvern village of Wychehill, where she discovers new tensions in Elgar's countryside. The proposed take-over of a local pub by a nightclub owner with a criminal reputation has become the battle-ground between the defenders of Olde Englande and the hard-men of drug culture - with extreme and sinister elements on both sides. And as the local choral society prepares to stage an open-air performance of Elgar's Caractacus on the Iron Age hillfort known as British Camp, the deaths begin...

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  • Hardback | 544 pages
  • 162 x 234 x 42mm | 698.54g
  • 01 Apr 2007
  • Quercus Publishing
  • London
  • English
  • 1905204515
  • 9781905204519
  • 695,217

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Author Information

Phil Rickman lives on the Welsh border where he writes and presents the book programme Phil the Shelf for BBC Radio Wales. He is the author of seven Merrily Watkins Mysteries, introducing the Reverend in The Wine of Angels, and charting her career as the diocesan exorcist with Midwinter of the Spirit, A Crown of Lights, The Cure of Souls, The Lamp of the Wicked, The Prayer of the Night Shepherd and The Smile of a Ghost.

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Review quote

'Compassionate, original and sharply contemporary, Rickman's crime series is one of the best around.' The Spectator 'This is no rural paradise, but a setting for an uneasy mix of embittered farmers, escapees from the city and a local pub with a reputation for drug dealing It's probably his best book.' Sunday Telegraph 'Crime fiction lovers who like their stories with a quirky twist need look no further.' Yorkshire Evening Post

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Review text

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. (Kirkus Reviews)

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