THE REMAINS OF AN ALTAR by Phil Rickman

THE REMAINS OF AN ALTAR

KIRKUS REVIEW

The spirit of Edward Elgar, Britain’s greatest ecclesiastical composer, haunts the byroads of the village of Wychehill.

In his latest, Jane, the 17-year-old daughter of Merrily Watkins, Deliverance Consultant for the Church of England, is about to be expelled from school for upsetting the local councilmen who wish to bulldoze Coleman Meadow and erect 24 luxury estate houses on the site. Jane believes the hillside represents a worship area that harks back to the Druids and should be left intact. Complicating matters, Merrily has been called in by the local vicar, Syd Spicer, ex-SAS, to conduct an exorcism of the bicycle-pedaling ghost of Sir Edward Elgar, whose sightings have caused numerous accidents along the road. Meanwhile, Tim Loste, a local choirmaster obsessed with Elgar and goaded by a hippie-dippie occult writer, not only seems determined to recreate a Perpetual Choir that will restore balance and harmony to the earth, but may have sliced and diced a drug dealer working near an ancient sacrificial stone. Merrily’s musician lover Lol provides help in analyzing Elgar’s music and entrée to anthropologist Alfred Watkins (no relation) and horror writer Algernon Blackwood; Jane relies on a crusty septuagenarian for aid.

Rickman (The Smile of a Ghost, 2005, etc.) is equally enamored of historical scholarship, ectoplasmic sleight-of-hand and village rumor-mongering. Readers will be left with an urge to wander the English countryside while whistling Elgar's tunes. Be advised, however, that the dark doings unfold at a stately pace.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-905204-51-9
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Quercus/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2007




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