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by Phil Rickman
Pan, December 2000
630 pages
ISBN: 0330342681

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

THE WINE OF ANGELS is a semi-cozy English mystery. Phil Rickman introduces Merrily Watkins, priest-in-waiting, and her daughter Jane as outsiders who come to Ledwardine, where Merrily is to be installed as the new priest. Soon events concerning the village's history start taking place, with the culmination of a play about Wil Williams, a 17th century priest, who was murdered and hanged for witchcraft.

Ledwardine has become the center of apple cider making, and several events are being planned to help get the 20th century into the village. From the opening, where Edgar Powell, one of the oldest residents in Ledwardine, commits suicide by shotgun blast, to the ending, THE WINE OF ANGELS kept me reading as events started unfolding.

When Merrily's daughter, Jane, goes to a party, and gets drunk, then with her friend Colette Cassidy, goes into the old apple orchid, and sees visions, people wonder what's going on. When Stefan Alder, a homosexual actor, who is infatuated with Wil Williams decides he and his partner Richard Coffey should produce a play explaining how Wil Williams came to die, the village family of Bull-Davies and the Powells, begin to worry what secrets will come out.

The pacing in the book kept me turning pages, while at the same time, the author transported me into Ledwardine, where I felt all the tensions hidden in the community. Merrily and Jane come across as vulnerable women who are also strong in the sense that they want to see results, and fight to get what is right straightened out.

The ending was a little flat, as it seemed as though the author decided the reader should be looking through a kaleidoscope to see all the connections coming together. I didn't feel a lot of the questions or priorities of getting to the solution were clear. Other than that, this is an author who I will continue to read, when I can find his books.

Reviewed by Steven Sill, July 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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