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I've always been a bit of a fan of Phil Rickman's "Merrily Watkins" series of books. They're sort of spooky whodunits where the diocesan exorcist for the Church of England is called in to help investigate strange happenings near Hereford (a rural area on the English-Welsh border).

Merrily Watkins, the main character, is an unmarried priest with a teenage daughter. She one of those women who joined the church because she believes in God, not to make a political point, and probably isn't the most brilliantly competent person in the world, but she means well all the same.

In this book, which is the first in the series and is the only one I've missed, we see Watkins get her first appointment as a priest and fight the "small c conservatives" who don't want "one of those damn women priests" in their church. At the same time, all sorts of weird happenings occur in the parish (she gets appointed to be exorcist in the second book on the back of how she manages what happens in this book), which she takes upon herself to investigate.

The book isn't bad, but it isn't one of his best either. This got me thinking. I know nothing about writers and the writing process, so I could be wrong, but I'm inclined to believe that authors who use characters regularly get to know them better.

By the sixth book, Rickman presumably knew both Watkins and daughter like the back of his hand and had a good idea about how they'd react to new situations. In this book, I don't get that sense from Rickman. It's especially bad when he writes for the daughter. I don't think he wrote very well for her at all at first.

By the second or third book he had the problem solved, and I don't think anyone who read this book in isolation would notice my grumble all that much, it's just that because I know it gets better I feel more comfortable grumbling about how they're written in this book.

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jamiebowen0306
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