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The Smile of a Ghost (Merrily Watkins #7)

4.22  ·  Rating Details  ·  958 Ratings  ·  58 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,453)
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Jul 15, 2007 Stiv_Matters rated it really liked it
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
Dec 22, 2015 Damaskcat rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Oct 12, 2012 Trilby rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 11, 2010 Linda rated it really liked it
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
I had got very tired of this series, but must admit that this one appealed to me much more than the last three or four. Less paranormal hokey-pokey, and more psychology and underground church politics, the mystery kept my interest to the end.

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.
Jul 07, 2015 Debbie rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins novels have become my comfort read. When life is hard, escaping with Merrily makes it easier to cope.

The Smile of a Ghost sees Merrily facing pressure from the newly formed Deliverance Committee to tone down her deliverance activities, and perhaps cease them altogether. When Merrily is drawn into investigating whether the supposed accidental death of Andy Mumford's nephew in Ludlow may be linked to an ancient ghost, the Deliverance Committee makes it quite clear th
Jill Mccaw
Aug 21, 2014 Jill Mccaw rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
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
Jul 30, 2014 Caroline rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
John Hanscom
Oct 20, 2015 John Hanscom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe even more. In our "rationalist" society, clergy have little difficulty with the positive aspects of the supernatural (for instance, God) but a great deal of difficulty with the negative ("things which go bump in the night"). This is the next installment of a series which looks at this dichotomy. Whether "right" or "wrong," this series is fascinating, if occasionally heavy-handed. It also deals with other issues, to a lesser extent, such as the perceptions of women clergy in the Anglican Ch ...more
Feb 15, 2015 Rachel rated it really liked it
This was my first Merrily Watkins and I enjoyed. I listened to this as an audio book and was gripped. The characters were great especially her daughter Jane, a teenager with wit and attitude. I also liked Andy Mumford, a great description of a man facing his retirement and trying to find a role for himself.

The style of writing was good and the pace of the book kept me guessing up to the very end.

What made the book stand out was that all the characters, both main and peripheral had been thought t
Sue Lang
Jan 24, 2016 Sue Lang rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book. I am familiar with the area in which it is set. So this made it more enjoyable. It was an easy read, there were no conveluted story lines, however I was disappointed as i was expecting a supernatural type story.

I had not read any of Phil Rickman/ Merrily Watkins before, though this was not a problem, however i had seen a drama on the television which got my interest in the books. Will definitley look for more of this series of books, hoping readin out of context has not spoi
Jamie Collins
Nov 10, 2014 Jamie Collins rated it really liked it
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
Feb 16, 2014 Cecily rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle-archive

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 really liked it  ·  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
Jul 25, 2013 S.C. Skillman rated it really liked it
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
Jan 24, 2015 Sunny rated it really liked it
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.
Madhurabharatula Pranav Rohit Kasinath
This book was wonderfully plotted with depth and characterisation. At times, you even doubt if there is any crime to speak of. A spate of suicides in Ludlow a woman obsessed with death and a copper bent on revenge converge on an atmospheric and engaging finale. Its been a long time since ive read any series wth this fervour but Phil Rickman has a definite convert.
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 it was amazing
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
Jul 11, 2014 Nancy rated it really liked it
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.
Sharon Bradshaw
Aug 08, 2015 Sharon Bradshaw rated it it was amazing
A great story, and a page turner. I truly wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters. There was the usual Merrily Watkins magic, and conflict between Church and Pagan ideology. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
May 20, 2015 Karen rated it really liked it
Another outing for Merrily Watkins, but this time the book is more focussed around Andy Mumford, a taciturn policeman and one of the many well developed second tier characters with which Phil Rickman peoples his books. I actually rather enjoyed that aspect of the book - it adds depth and reality to Merrily's world, as does the time spent on her developing relationship with Lol Robinson. The plot is also a very enjoyable one. There are lots of twists and turns to get your teeth into, and the usua ...more
Oct 08, 2015 Lynne rated it it was ok
A bit of a muddle. I'm glad it was a library book.
Apr 11, 2014 Susan rated it it was amazing
Another terrific story. Love the way Phil Rickman twists and turns his characters...and his readers. This one actually had my stomach in knots.
Feb 06, 2014 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
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 it was amazing
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.

Alison 1965
Already read the first one of this series, but I enjoyed this one much more. Good characters and very atmospheric. An excellent and unusual supernatural detective story.
Feb 12, 2015 Lee rated it really liked it
It has become an addiction ...
Mar 31, 2013 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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Is it necessary to read the Merrily Watkins books in order? 11 27 Jul 02, 2014 07:53AM  
  • The Cold Calling
  • Marco’s Pendulum
  • Vaporetto 13
  • Whispers in the Dark
  • A Lily of the Field (Inspector Troy, #7)
  • Floats The Dark Shadow
  • The Dead Place (Ben Cooper & Diane Fry, #6)
  • The Office of the Dead (Roth, #3)
  • Keeping Bad Company (Fran Varady, #2)
  • A Wicked Deed (Matthew Bartholomew, #5)
  • A Place Of Safety (Chief Inspector Barnaby, #6)
  • The Blood Detective
  • The Greenstone Grail (The Sangreal Trilogy, #1)
  • The Reaper
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 13 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)

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