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THE PRAYER OF THE NIGHT SHEPHERD by Phil Rickman Kirkus Star

THE PRAYER OF THE NIGHT SHEPHERD

By Phil Rickman

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2004
ISBN: 0-333-90806-6
Publisher: Pan UK/Trafalgar

Myths, legends, a large black hound, and spiritual proof of a visitation from Conan Doyle occupy the country folk of Ledwardine.

Former TV personality Ben Foley has sunk his last shilling into Stanner Hall. Although the Baker Street League has declined to hold its next conference at the Victorian mansion, The White Company, a group determined to contact Conan Doyle psychically to prove his Hound of the Baskervilles was based on local legend, has booked rooms. Independent TV producer Anthony Largo, whom Ben has talked into filming the proceedings, seems especially keen on the project once he meets the lovely hotel manager, Natalie, now sharing digs with reticent farmer Jeremy Berrows. Also keeping secrets is teenaged chambermaid/gofer Jane Watkins, who knows her mum, Rev. Merrily Watkins, Deliverance Consultant for the Church of England, will find the proceedings hogwash. Meantime, local squire Sebbie Dacre, a bad-tempered alcoholic with madness in his family tree, is hiring gunmen and shooting up Jeremy’s farm, which used to belong to Sebbie’s family. Snow falls. Ectoplasm unfurls (maybe). And there are sightings of an enormous hound that, according to local legend, is a fatal portent that can be traced 500 years back to the death of Thomas Vaughn.

Rickman, a thinking reader’s Elizabeth George, continues his traversal of Welsh superstitions, Church of England conundrums, and true-crime touchstones (The Lamp of the Wicked, 2003, etc.) with an added bonus for Sherlockians: an explanation of that Hound’s genesis.