Happy New Year, everyone!!!
Yes, I'm late. We were sick with some stomach virus over New Year's again. We had a wonderful game of Dr Who monopoly, and brought in the new year quietly at home. It was the first time we'd been at home for several years, as we usually go to my friends' who hold an annual New Year's get-together for our group. I'm hoping this won't be the shape of our entire year.....but so far my eldest son had a raging fever for most of this week, and yes, it's Friday, and I'm home with a sore throat and generally achy all over. So let's hope this is it for January.
I've already read a book that I love. This is a good way to begin the year!!! The Magus of Hay, by Phil Rickman. The latest - book 12 - in the Merrily Watkins series. In this book we end up in that loveliest of book towns, Hay-on-Wye, which everyone knows has the largest number of bookstores in any city in the world. Except in this novel, the number of bookstores has been falling due to the recent recession and the rise of Amazon and online bookstores. A couple, Robin and Betty Thorogood, who are returning characters from an earlier book in the series, have decided to buy an empty shop that once used to be a bookstore, and turn it back into a bookstore, in Hay. Only the shop has a very bad history, and Betty, who is a witch, gets a very bad feeling upon entering the store before buying it. At the same time, a body is found in a pool in a river. When DI Frannie Bliss, back from his terrible beating in the previous novel, goes to investigate what should be a routine drowning, what is discovered at the dead man's house persuades him that Merrily should be called in to provide him some advise. Then the young constable who notified Bliss of the body, goes missing. Who took her? Why? Who was helping the old man shortly before his death? And what is the link to the shop that Betty and Robin have bought and are setting up to open?
I really enjoyed this mystery. I especially enjoyed the moments of eerie atmosphere, creepy sense of dabbling in the dark arts, and the return of Betty and Robin and Gwyn Arthur Jones, the detective superintendent from the same book - The Crown of Lights - who is now retired and strangely enough, has opened a bookstore in Hay.
Lol and Jane and Gomer are off-page for much of this novel. The few times Lol phones Merrily - he is off on a tour, his first one, to promote his new material - I am reminded of how much I like his character, and like him with Merrily. It was good to see Merrily on her own for once, too, and how difficult she finds it, with Jane gone with Eiron on a dig in Wales. Huw Owen is back, and he is such a fun character also! I really like him!
As always, there is a rational explanation for much of what happens, and always the sense that there is an undercurrent of the uncanny, the unseen, and malevolent forces that exist side by side in the world with the rational. There is the beginnings of a new story thread too, with Merrily and the new reverend who comes in to 'replace' her temporarily as she is supposed to be on vacation, which I expect will be part of the next book or two. It will be interesting, because Merrily might be forced out of the diocese and her job if she is not careful, and meanwhile something that is not holy and right, is trying to get in through her church and the replacement reverend.......
Excellent series, fabulous and well-drawn characters, and lovely creepy sometimes scary atmosphere of hauntings, eerie happenings, and ghostly manifestations. Highly recommended.
I hope you have had a healthy start to your 2014, and have been reading some good books too. I have to catch up with all of your new blog posts. Oh, and do my final books of the year post. I haven't forgotten.
Next up: The Abominable by Dan Simmons finally came into the library for me. Last night, before I began feeling really ill, I managed to get there to pick it up. This weekend, in between napping, I will be reading this much-anticipated adventure to Mount Everest, just before our dreadfully cold weather (and this means -24c at night) returns mid-next week. Who will be colder, me or the characters in the book? Brr. I hope to be deliciously scared too, as I was when I read The Terror by him, which I loved.