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4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  738 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
In the twelfth-century ruins of the Abbey, it is said every stone was cemented in blood. On December 8, 1980, that blood will run again...

In the ruins of a haunted medieval abbey, four musicians hope to tap into the site's dark history. The experience almost destroys them. Years later, the original group is forced to return to the abbey, to confront the old evil they disco
Paperback, 688 pages
Published July 1st 1996 by Berkley (first published 1994)
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The Definitive Horror Book List
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,264)
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Mar 06, 2010 Holly rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of paranormal mystery/horror
Shelves: keepers
5++ stars
*All Time Favorite Book List*

On December 8 1980 a young band named The Philosopher's Stone gather inside the ruins of a 12th century Abbey, to record their debut album. But after one night, and a horrifying turn of events, the band members agree to never let the music they recorded there see the light of day...and to never see each other again.

13 years later, the story of that recording session has become the stuff of legend. And then those supposedly destroyed Abbey tapes...known as t
Dec 28, 2008 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: recentlyread
Rickman's books, especially the early ones, are somewhat hard to find here--I have to order used copies through Amazon Marketplace--and I don't know why. They're addictive. In this, I think his third novel, a promising rock band called The Philosopher's Stone tries to record an ambitious album in a ruined medieval abbey in Wales but tragedy and terror interrupt, the band breaks up, and 14 years later the record company rediscovers the tapes and tracks down the original band members to complete t ...more
Nov 23, 2011 Christia rated it liked it
This is an oldy but goody, one of the first Rickman novels. It had been so long since I’d read it, I had forgotten most of the ending. A great story concerning a “psychic” rock band, the Philosopher’s Stone, commissioned to record an album in an abbey turned recording studio in Wales. The dark power of the Abbey paired with the unusual abilities of each of the individual band members creates a dangerous and deadly cocktail, resulting in an unfinished album and 4 very badly damaged musicians. The ...more
Patrice Hoffman
Jun 27, 2012 Patrice Hoffman rated it really liked it
This is the second novel I have read by this author. Luckily it was just as good. The beginning started out a little slow for me. I just had to find out what was going on and happening in the Abbey's tower house to the psychic band from the early 80s. This book was a complex and enjoyable read. I recommend to all fans of the horror genre.
Apr 19, 2013 Helen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't say I really enjoyed this book but its possible this was down to my copy being a HUGE, heavy beast of a volume. I therefore couldn't take it on the train, fit it in my handback, hold it for very long etc etc (I know, this all seems irrelevant but is it?) which meant I spent 4 weeks reading only a few pages at night. It also had enormous print and put me completely out of my normal reading kilter. I wanted to enjoy it and it was recommended by someone who's opinion I regard but I was plea ...more
Mar 12, 2012 Patrick rated it liked it
A good book with some really solid characters. I appreciated how Rickman was able to write accents believably. He also was great at making me feel the realness of the locales. The story had some spook to it.

I've got a few gripes. This was a slow-starter, with tons of exposition. Unfortunately, this made the story really drag for me. I felt that 100 pages could have been discarded without any negative effect. I was also annoyed with the main characters. They were so neurotic, whiny and pathetic t
Jul 04, 2013 Damaskcat rated it it was amazing
Four musicians met fourteen years ago to record an album in a studio converted from a former abbey. The session ended in tragedy and some very spooky happenings which have adversely affected all four ever since. Now they have been asked to complete the recording.

Various people who were connected with the production of the music have met untimely ends and Prof Levin, sound engineer and alcoholic – has been asked to listen to the tapes of the previous session and to produce the new recording. The
Aug 10, 2013 Chibineko rated it liked it
This is sort of a hard review to write. The biggest problem I had with this book is also one of its strengths in several places. The problem? December takes a really long time to get where it's going.

This is a fairly massive tome. It's not the longest book I've ever read, but it's a little longer than your typical books from that era. Many books that were in the horror genre during the 90s tended to be about 300-400 pages in length, whereas this is almost 700. That might not seem like a big thi
Aug 23, 2013 Martyn rated it it was amazing
'December' was my first taste of Phil Rickman. The book was hidden in my local library, back in my home town, way back in my past, amongst the shadows on a shelf beneath a dead light bulb. I visited this place three maybe four times a week for fourteen years. The light bulb was never replaced. I picked books up from other parts of the library, but the books I picked up from this area, where always face down and of a dark nature. I suppose someone may have used up his/her ticket allocation and we ...more
Aug 12, 2013 Suzanne rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, mystery
I came to read December after recently getting hooked on the Merrily Watkins series. To me it felt like a (long) book of two halves: the first half could have done with a really good edit for both length and pace, but the second half (particularly the band's return to the fated abbey studio) fired along with dramatic tension.

The premise is a clever one: a rock band made up of psychics put into an old abbey to see what they come up with, and it isn't pretty. As usual, Rickman walks the fine line
Apr 15, 2012 Sophia rated it really liked it
December centres on a group of musicians with psychic abilities, who were brought together by an unscrupulous record company to make a very special album. Their recording studio was at a haunted abbey in Wales, and the band had a terrifying experience there one night in 1980, which resulted in a death and the break-up of the group. Fourteen years later the old tapes of that recording are unearthed and the members of the group find themselves forced to revisit the experience that has haunted them ...more
Jun 11, 2012 Cathy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror, kindle
The first Rickman I read, Candlenight, was exceeding well-written, full of interesting and believable characters, and introduced me to a fascinating regional culture -- but it really wasn't creepy or eerie at all. December has all the virtues of Candlenight, combined with a genuinely spooky storyline about a recording studio in an unholy abbey near the Welsh border. Rickman really nails rock culture in addition to giving us another well-realized small town -- I wonder whether he's been in a band ...more
Jane Alexander
Oct 08, 2012 Jane Alexander rated it really liked it
I read this absolutely years ago and thought it was a total pile of tosh. Then read pretty well all of Rickman's other books and, the other day, thought I'd revisit it. And, guess what? I thoroughly enjoyed it. Yes, the POV shifts are dizzying but I had forgotten how much stronger Rickman is when he sticks to the supernatural, rather than in the later Merrily Watkins books where pretty much everything is explained away as crime.
There's a rather lovely redemptive quality about this book too. Yes,
Remittance Girl
Dec 15, 2012 Remittance Girl rated it really liked it
I listened to the audiobook version of this, and I would highly recommend that if you can, you do for two reasons: the audiobook version contains a lot of contextual music that brings the importance of the music to its rightful place in the story and because the regional accents add a greater dimension to the narrative's voices.

I really enjoyed December. I'm not going to spend time synopsizing the novel, because others have done that. But it is a complex, nuanced, well written novel with vibran
Julie Adams
Jan 03, 2012 Julie Adams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Long one of my favorite books by Rickman who is awesome at weaving music, ghosts, blood, Celtic legend, great characters and mystery into a cracking good read. The fab psychic four assemble at a haunted Welsh abbey to record an album on the night that John Lennon is murdered - and their lives are never the same. They come back together 14 years later to record again. Even better, Rickman and some talented musician friends have now completed the songs and put out an album, Abbey Tapes: The Exorci ...more
May 27, 2012 Donna rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012, kindle-read
I like Phil Rickman but I did struggle to get through this one. It is pretty long and drawn out. I'm not sure i would have persevered if it wasn't for the fact that I knew some of the characters from Rickman's later series of Merrily Watkins books, although this was an earlier stand alone novel.

The plot involves the reformation of a music group 14 years after a tragedy which happened during the recording of an album. They are all reluctant to return to the studio but think it may be cathartic to
Dianne Landry
May 10, 2015 Dianne Landry rated it it was amazing
On the night John Lennon is murdered a group of rock musicians, each with a different psychic power, are recording an album at a ruined Welsh abbey. Something goes terribly wrong and they separate, not having any contact with each other for 14 years. They believe they have destroyed the taps from that session of what is dubbed The Black Album.

Fourteen years after that night the tapes are found and restored. This makes the record company push to have the album completed.

The bad return to the Abb
Jun 06, 2011 Julia rated it it was amazing
I loved December. The characters are well-drawn, which is rare in horror. It is genuinely creepy, with actual evil, and yet has a mostly happy ending. Phil Rickman should be as successful as Stephen King, or Dan Brown.
Graeme Mc pherson
Oct 21, 2014 Graeme Mc pherson rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
"Good story but disappointing adaptation "

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
Not the audiobook. Narration is hamfisted and the music to add drama is embarrassing.

If you’ve listened to books by Phil Rickman before, how does this one compare?
Have read others but not listened

What didn’t you like about Seán Barrett’s performance?
It's heavy handed. Groans and screams etc are over acted.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?
Possibly if directed by right person

Any additio
Dec 02, 2014 Scotty rated it really liked it
This book was sort of a personal Moby Dick for me. I've been trying to read it for about 20 years since it first came out. I pick it up every two years and get a quarter of the way through it and then put it back down. There's just something about the level of detail and the way Rickman just throws you into the deep end without a lot of context that I continually found overwhelming.

I finally managed to push through and, overall, I'd say it's worth it. Rickman has a breezy, conversational style t
Aug 06, 2009 Dennis rated it did not like it
Shelves: quit-reading
Read 100 Pages and everyone was a chore. Gave Up.
Oct 13, 2010 Shahar rated it it was amazing
the book that made me fall in love with Rickman
Janette Fleming
Feb 26, 2013 Janette Fleming rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
Brilliant intro to this novel from

Without giving away too much of the story, here’s the gist: In December of 1980, four musicians were invited to the ancient Black Abbey in Ystrad Ddu, Wales, near the Skirrid (a mountain) to record an album as the band Philosopher’s Stone. It turned out to be an almost cruel trick by the record producer to exploit these sensitive, psychic artists. The Abbey itself had been haunted since the 12th century when the Welsh bar
Leah Polcar
While this novel had an interesting premise and was filled with promise, I felt horribly let down by the last 1/3 or so of the book and its patchwork ending. Yes, everything was tied up and that is a feat, but I never find deus ex machina compelling and I still don't think I have a good grasp on what the heck was going on. I still have no idea why the Philosopher's Stone ever needed to go record there to begin with, what Moira's whole backstory has to do with anything, why is Meryl in this story ...more
Feb 13, 2013 Linda rated it really liked it
Southeastern Wales, December, 1980. A newly constituted progressive rock band, Philosopher's Stone, gathers for a recording session in a new, purpose-built studio in the ruins of a spooky medieval abbey. Each of the members has a bit of renown, and each possesses more than a modicum of psychic ability. This recording session promises to deliver great, dramatic results, and it does. And then it ends badly, very badly.

The group burns their session tapes and disbands, and the first half of December
Christopher Hivner
May 10, 2012 Christopher Hivner rated it really liked it
December was a well written and original novel albeit one in need of an editor. 1980 and 4 psychic musicians are brought together to record in an old Abbey in Wales with a bad history. They spend the next 14 years mentally tortured by the experience. 1994 and they are brought together again at the Abbey to finish the recording. They are all frightened but know they must finish it to dispel their personal demons. There's a lot more to the story and a lot more characters which is part of the probl ...more
Lisa Cleveland
I'm a huge fan of Mr. Rickmans, and he's in my top five favorite authors. Every book of his I have, I've read at least 3 times each. This book however will not be one that I'll read again. Don't get me wrong, it was a good tale, but at times it was very disjointed and hard to follow. The setting was just how I like it, and the characters were pretty great, but I didn't get that sense of impending doom, and a slight ratcheting up of the nerves like I normally would with this author. I honestly do ...more
Sarah Mann
Sep 24, 2014 Sarah Mann rated it really liked it
A dark book full of characters that seem to emerge from the page in a shroud of mystery. I found it hard to put down as the tales and characters continued to twist and entwine right up to the ending.

From the author note: The Holy Mountain, Ysgyryd Fawr - the Skirrid - noses out of the lushly mysterious area where Gwent blends with Hertfordshire beyond the friendly market town of Abergavenny, scene of the notorious massacre of December 1175.

Scene setting: December 1980 as Lennon is shot, a band is set to record an album at the Abbey Studios, North Gwent, between midnight and dawn.

PAGE COUNT IS 648 - thanks

wales> north gwent> skirrid
welsh gothic

page 30: "[..] I started playing 'Julia',
Feb 03, 2014 Maxine rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book - however I don't think it is anywhere near as good as his Merrily Watkins books. It had some characters from those books, but in my opinion it would have worked much better written as part of the Merrily series rather than a stand alone novel.
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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.
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