cover image THE WINE OF ANGELS


Phil Rickman, . . Pan, $7.95 (630pp) ISBN 978-0-330-34268-1

In the U.S. release of Rickman's first title featuring Rev. Merrily Watkis and her teenage daughter, Jane, Rickman (Midwinter of the Spirit) moves farther away from the traditional horror genre to craft a first-rate thriller with supernatural overtones. When Merrily takes up residence as the newly appointed priest-in-charge in the picture-perfect community of Ledwardine, she discovers a pagan influence lurking beneath the town's sunny surface that links the community to a horrific, centuries-old murder. In resurrecting the 17th-century murder in the form of a play, tensions between the townsfolk come to a head, and it's up to Merrily to resolve their issues. Rickman deftly illuminates the intrigues of village life and the conflicts between new residents and well-established families; teenagers and older generations; and Merrily and the town's more conservative members. Throughout the story, apples and cider, which is "the wine of angels," is the prevailing image, and it ties in nicely with the pagan traditions and superstitions that plague Ledwardine's past. Although this hefty novel trundles off to a slow start, quirky characters, an abundance of plot twists and an exhilarating conclusion ensure that readers will enjoy this tale. (Apr. 15)