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The Smile of a Ghost (Merrily Watkins #7)

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  675 ratings  ·  44 reviews
The border town of Ludlow has it all—exquisite medieval streets, a parish church the size of a cathedral, and a weight of history and legend. After a young teenage boy dies, his grandmother becomes convinced she's still seeing her dead grandson in the old town. Merrily Watkins, parish priest is brought in to find out if it is dementia, delusion or something even more distu ...more
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by Pan Macmillan
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Best psychological/gothic horror
30th out of 34 books — 19 voters
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Community Reviews

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Phil Rickman is best known in the US for three books, 'Candlenight', 'Curfew', and 'December' all released in the early 90's. After 1994's 'December' he appeared to drop off the map. His other books are hard to find unless you mail order them. 'Smile Of A Ghost' is the latest in his series of books involving a female Anglican priest and exorcist named Merrily Watkins. I read the first two in the series about 5 years ago. My parents took a trip to England and asked me if I wanted anything special ...more
Ludlow in Shropshire is a really atmospheric town and Phil Rickman has captured this atmosphere in this enthralling story. Merrily Watkins has been told she must work with a colleague - Canon Sian Callaghan-Clark - and a psychiatrist - Nigel Saltash. Everything she is asked to do in the way of Deliverance must be referred to them first before any action is taken. Merrily is not happy about this as she is used to working on her own. Andy Mumford - newly retired police officer has his own problems ...more
This, the seventh mystery in the Merrily Watkins series, is the best so far. In this installment, Rickman moves the setting to Ludlow, an historic border town with a castle and cathedral. The story is loosely derived from local folklore about a lovelorn 12th-century aristocrat who flung herself from the top of the castle to her death. (In the afterword, Rickman says that the owners of the castle would not let him in to research the book--no ghosts in their castle! Silly.)

Rickman works over blowh
There's more than one ghost in historic, medieval Ludlow, and not all of them are dead yet. There's legendary Marion, who jumped to her death from the Hanging Tower at Ludlow Castle, more than 500 years ago, and she's still making personal appearances. There's Robbie Walsh, the 14 year old history buff who falls from the tower as the novel opens, and the reverberations from his death refuse to dissipate. There's Bella Donna, burnt out Goth pop star, who thinks Ludlow is her own personal heaven, ...more
Julie Golding Page
Featuring reluctant exorcist-priest Merrily Watkins, this book is my favourite in the series to date. In this story, the Rev'd Watkins has grown into her role as diocesan exorcist, as well as her relationship with Lol Robinson. Her daughter, Jane, too has matured. All of this makes for an excellent setting in terms of the relationships, allowing for smooth plot development and the exploration of yet more supernatural themes.
Jill Mccaw
Another nicely convoluted Merrily Watkins story. I feel it wouldn't mean much to anyone who isn't familiar with the series, but as I am it was satisfying and I didn't want to finish it.
Strangely, I think I finally have a better idea of what Merrily looks like now, and I like the more grown up Jane. Lol still seems a bit of a wet blanket, but he came through and did really well this time.
By the end of this, I was truly surprised by the reveal of the murderer and the motivations and reasons for al
Caroline Goodwin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I’m still enjoying this series very much, and I remain enchanted with Rickman’s writing style. This has great characterizations, a spooky ambiance and an engaging mystery. I love the short chapters with mini-cliffhangers which alternate between the increasingly suspenseful converging storylines - still suspenseful even though I’ve caught on to the author’s trick of misdirection.

Plotwise: Merrily is saddled with a “Deliverance advisory panel” which seems to have a hidden agenda; a boy obsessed wi

I've read - and very much enjoyed - the preceding six books in the Merrily Watkins series but this is the first one that I have been able to follow through all the plot twists and turns. I feel a smug sense of achievement as well as having enjoyed the book. (Although I suspect Phil Rickman should get the credit rather than this being taken as an indication that I have, oh I don't know, grown a few more brain cells .......).

The plot revolves around the recently retired Andy Mumford and a double t
Apr 17, 2012 Donna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Donna by: read others in series
Shelves: 2012, kindle-read
I always like the Merrily Watkins books and this was a good one. But I am always left not quite knowing what actually did happen!!
This time Merrily is asked to help by a friend of hers (recently retired police officer Andy Mumford), when his nephew dies after falling from Ludlow Castle. He is not convinced it was an accident and his mother seems to be seeing & speaking to the ghost of the dead child. Hence the reason for calling in Merrily, the diocesan deliverance minister (exorcist to you
S.C. Skillman
I enjoy reading Phil Rickman; his settings, and his subject matter captivate me. One of the things that intrigues me about him as an author is that you cannot decribe his books as "unputdownable". And yet this is to their advantage. One of the reviews on the back cover exactly expressed my own response: "I read it in strictly rationed instalments to make the enjoyment last longer."

However, I do feel that the unravelment of the various plot strands at the end, as with Rickman's other books in the
So many bad guys, of all shapes and sizes, that you can't imagine who dunnit or how on earth Merrily will find her way to safety out of their ensnaring evil plots. This volume moved along quite quickly, and is notable for less time the good guys spend agonizing over their own thoughts, and more actual puzzle solving. Also, Lol continues his hero turn from the last book, and everyone learns why you should never ever allow Jane to make decorating decisions.
I truly love this series! There is just something so utterly lifelike about it, despite the supernatural elements that flit in and out of the plots. Although, this is one of the series’ least supernatural so far. All of the regular characters make appearances here which is always a relief - and the plot that starts out so simply quickly becomes more complex with plenty of strings to be tied together by the conclusion.

This edition also includes some photographs of the area, which only roots the s
Sep 18, 2008 Stephanie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Paranormal mystery fans
I loved this book! An excellent ghost story with themes of grief and mental illness, it seemed quite realistic and the last third or so is very suspenseful. All the characters were in fine form... Merrily, Lol, even Jane is not as annoying as she used to be. There were great new villains and "question-mark" characters; I enjoyed how not everyone turned out to be what they seemed at the outset. There are some excellent plot twists which kept me guessing about the truth of events, and not everythi ...more
My first Merrily Watkins--but won't be my last. Wonderful writing, sharp and witty, and a tangled maze of story. Memorable, unique characters. And a medieval city that's a character in itself. Great summer read.
Another terrific story. Love the way Phil Rickman twists and turns his characters...and his readers. This one actually had my stomach in knots.
Another spectacular success from Phil Rickman. His Merrily novels really do go from strength to strength. If you haven't read any of them, please do give them a try - they're fascinating, fresh and original (so original I feel as though Rickman's invented an entirely new genre). The characterisation is superb, the plotting likewise, dialogue remarkably good - all the characters sound different from each other - and the sense of place, the English/Welsh borderlands and the Herefordshire Black and ...more
Feb 29, 2008 Robyn rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mystery lovers and anglophiles
Shelves: mystery, phil_rickman
I can't get enough of Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins novels. I usually have one in hardcopy and one on my iPod going at the same time. Usually an author who writes a particular genre tends to rewrite the same story over and over but these novels are always fresh.

I love to return to the beautiful Welsh border country though the writing of this author. Anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting this part of the world will enjoy these stories. You can hear the voices of the people as you read.

Merrily Watkins 7
Die Story an sich ist wirklich interessant und auch detail- und dialogreich geschrieben, doch der Schreibstil konnte mich nicht so recht überzeugen. Dieser wirkt auf mich eher dokumentarisch. Die Geschichte wird durch viele "filmische" Erzählschnitte unterbrochen, so dass der Lesefluß immer wieder gestört wird und keine rechte Spannung aufkommt.In diesem Buch sind viele Geschichten vereint worden, aber die Sprünge sind teilweise zu abrupt. Als Drehbuch wäre es dagegen fast schon perfekt.
Another interesting entry in this series. Merrily continues growing a pair and daughter Jane is a great character. Lol is coming into his own. Ghosts in a picturesque town and a couple of suicides, maybe. It probably helps to read these in order. Hope the character of Sophie the secretary gets more involved, she sounds like a very interesting person and I'd like to know more about her personal life. And there should be a love interest for Gomer.
This seventh Merrily Watkins book finds the Diocesan Exorcist dealing with a Diocesan Deliverance Panel which doesn't really believe in what she is doing and seeks to cover it up with psycho-babble. As usual the setting is very important, in this case the town of Ludlow. Various recurring characters have their parts to play as many plot lines converge at the conclusion. Perhaps not the best of the series, but still well worth reading.
I think Phil Rickman manages to scoop stuff out of my head to write about! He always finds something to send me off researching some more. This is a story based in Ludlow, which I'm sure is loved by many people and it didn't disappoint. Ludlow being the real central character this time. I can't wait to get back there and have a poke about in the hidden parts previously unknown to me, but revealed in this story.
The more I read alan Rickman's work, the more I want to go visit the places he writes about so well. This mystery is just as well thought out as the previous ones, this time focussing on obsessions be it historical or deathly and again the ratehr politic nature of the church and people's personal agendas. If you've read all his other Merrily novels then I am sure you will no need convincing to go further!
Jessica Andersen
This was a fantastic entry to the Merrily Watkins series. It was set in the Medieval town of Ludlow, on the Welsh border. It sounds like a great town to visit. Add it to my list!

Rickman is really good at ratcheting up the tension and making the story kind of spooky.

I highly recommend his books in general and this one was particularly good.
I am not sure if I am enjoying this story for the content or because it is set in my nearest town. The history associated with Ludlow and the many hauntings/ghosts is of great interest but the story line... yet to decide.
Caroline Ingvaldsen
Eighth in the "Merrily Watkins Mystery" series: another engrossing clerical thriller set in the scenic Borderlands between England and Wales populated with petty criminals, murderers and the unquiet dead.
Teenagers start leaping off of a castle in a small town. Merrily Watkins, meanwhile, is bedeviled by a group that wants to smother her Deliverance ministry by committee. Very readable, very typically Rickman.
Christine Morris
Have read all previous Merrily Watkins Really like Rickmans Books This one is particularly good because of it,s setting in historic Ludlow
Slow start but good once it got going. All the usual suspects here - Lol, Gomer Parry etc but somehow not one of the better ones in this series
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Is it necessary to read the Merrily Watkins books in order? 11 23 Jul 02, 2014 07:53AM  
  • Ghost Song
  • In a Dark House (Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James, #10)
  • The Blood Detective
  • The Risk of Darkness (Simon Serrailler, #3)
  • Floats The Dark Shadow
  • A Place Of Safety (Chief Inspector Barnaby, #6)
  • The Reaper
  • The Lost
  • Vaporetto 13
  • A Little White Death (Inspector Troy, #3)
  • A Wicked Deed (Matthew Bartholomew, #5)
  • Midnight is a Lonely Place
  • The Rhetoric of Death
  • The Cipher Garden (Lake District Mystery #2)
  • A Personal Devil (Magdalene la Batarde, #2)
aka Will Kingdom, Thom Madley.

Phil Rickman, born in Lancashire, has won awards for his TV and radio journalism. After five acclaimed novels, he introduced the fascinating Merrily Watkins series with The Wine of Angels. He is married and lives on the Welsh Border.
More about Phil Rickman...

Other Books in the Series

Merrily Watkins (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • The Wine of Angels (Merrily Watkins, #1)
  • Midwinter of the Spirit (Merrily Watkins, #2)
  • A Crown of Lights (Merrily Watkins, #3)
  • The Cure of Souls (Merrily Watkins, #4)
  • The Lamp of the Wicked (Merrily Watkins, #5)
  • The Prayer of the Night Shepherd (Merrily Watkins, #6)
  • The Remains of an Altar (Merrily Watkins, #8)
  • The Fabric of Sin (Merrily Watkins, #9)
  • To Dream of the Dead (Merrily Watkins, #10)
  • The Secrets of Pain (Merrily Watkins, #11)
The Wine of Angels (Merrily Watkins, #1) Midwinter of the Spirit (Merrily Watkins, #2) A Crown of Lights (Merrily Watkins, #3) The Cure of Souls (Merrily Watkins, #4) The Lamp of the Wicked (Merrily Watkins, #5)

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