The Lamp of the Wicked: Phil Rickman

Posted: July 5, 2015 in England, review

rickmanThe author Phil Rickman was recommended to me by Philip in British Columbia, a reader who knows a lot more about crime fiction than I do. 

I chose The lamp of the Wicked because there was a link to the real life killings perpetrated by the notorious serial killer Fred West. I enjoyed the book with its clever plot, and memorable characters especially the vicar Merrily Watkins, and her troubled teenage daughter Jane. The social commentary was very up to date with comments on  how rural areas are ruined by both new buildings to accommodate those fleeing from the overcrowded cities of the UK, and rich city folk buying cottages in pretty villages and only using them as  weekend retreats or holiday homes. The interesting theory that all that electricity around us, power cables, phone masts, computers, mobile phones etc can affect the brain waves of sensitive individuals is covered brilliantly in the story. 

This book was more than crime fiction it was a virtually a social history of rural communities, and the stresses they face. Merrily, the diocesan exorcist, or more correctly deliverance consultant, is a wonderfully flawed character, but her heart is in the right place, and she is surrounded by cast of many interesting characters. If the book has any minor faults it is there are too many plot strands, too many characters, and too many pages. But the book kept my interest for the whole 610 pages, not an easy task.  

The narrative starts with a disagreement between Gomer Parry and wide boy Roddy Lodge about the installation of septic tanks. That grabbed my interest because during the fifteen years I lived in a Devon longhouse I unfortunately became a bit of an expert on septic tanks! People would sometimes actually phone and ask my advice. That advice was usually “move to a house on the main drainage system”. Septic tanks situated close to the house are trouble, although there are ways to get round the problem. 

The Lamp of the Wicked was a very good tense read, but perhaps a bit too long for some readers.

Despite the fog, the square was collecting its nightly quota of upmarket 4x4s: well-off couples coming to dine-on a Monday night for heaven’s sake-at the Black Swan and the restaurant that used to be Cassidy’s Country Kitchen. 

The Monday diners were mostly the youthfully retired with up to half a century to kill before death.  

  1. tracybham says:

    I have read only the first book in this series and I want to read more but I want to read them in order. It hasn’t been easy to find copies here in the US and since my TBR piles are so, so high, I haven’t tried too hard. But I loved the first one, even with it length, and I will continue. Glad to see you found good things in this one. I agree, what makes it worth the read is that it is more than crime fiction. And great characters.

  2. Philip Amos says:

    You pay me a great compliment, Norman! The problem now is trying to live up to it — no easy task, but I’ll surely be tested when your next incomparable Quirky Quiz comes along. Always such a treat for me!

    Having recommended Rickman, I’m naturally happy and not a little relieved that you enjoyed Lamp of the Wicked. Your review is in my view exceptionally good, for you have captured not only the essential nature of this book, but of all those in Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series. Well done you! Best wishes.

  3. I was delighted to see this review, Norman, because I love this series. There are a lot of Merrily fans out there, but you don’t see much about the books online or in other media.

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