Saturday, May 1, 2010
Police sergeant Merryll Manning is on vacation on an island in the Florida Keys for a Murder Mystery weekend. The plan is to solve the mystery and win a cash prize of $5,000.00. Easier said than done. Merry has his teenage-looking girlfriend Susan Ford along for the trip. Susan isn’t above using her sexuality to keep Merryll flustered and under her thumb.
Merryll Manning: Trapped On Mystery Island by John Howard Reid was published more than twenty years ago in Australia. The first installment of the twelve part Merryll Mysteries made its American debut in the spring of 2008.
The game players are an eclectic group including a priest, lawyer, novelist, as well as several actors who may or may not be playing parts in the game. Merryll begins mingling with the players as only he can. His abrasive, eccentric style quickly puts him at odds with several of the gamers. Merry continuously aggravates the priest with religious debates; while Susan’s sexy and spunky charms push and pull Merryll’s concentration from the game.
Soon the first victim of the game falls as Merryll has predicted. The others have a problem with a policeman’s unfair advantage in the game. Others believe Susan is under-age and doubt Manning is a cop at all.
When blood is found, Merryll traces it to a real murder victim. The horrific bloody murder scene has a profound affect on Merryll. Another gamer disappears during a smoke break. With no way to contact the mainland, to leave the island, or to inform the police, Merryll takes over the investigation.
Author John Howard Reid has an undeniable skill for keeping the reader guessing who-dun-it. Reid points the finger of guilt, through Merryll, at many of the characters. The reader keeps turning pages to see who Merryll will infuriate next with his accusations and taunts. Tension, mistrust, fear, and a quick pace keep the reader captivated to the final page.
Don’t mistake this as another self-published vanity project. John Howard Reid is a talented, experienced writer with more than 70 books to his credit. His dialogue is brilliant in the back-and-forth banter between Merryll and the priest, and Merryll and the novelist. He paints scenes so well that you expect to see Merryll and his suspect burst into your living room.
Books three and four in the series are scheduled for release in 2010 with Merryll Manning: Beachfront Holiday set for release in June. Merryll Manning is a wonderful, old-fashioned style mystery series. Start here with Trapped on Mystery Island and you’ll be hooked. Highly Recommended.
Lulu.com (June 24, 2008)
By William Potter for Reader’s Choice Reviews.
The Vincent family is set to enjoy some downtime at their Mudeford Sandbank beach hut, near Christchurch Harbour in Dorset, England. It doesn’t take long for a shocking, brutal murder to disturb this tranquil setting in Sandman by author Ian Kingsley.
We meet Paul Vincent, his wife, Sasha, and their 13-year-old daughter, Leah, at a windsurfing lesson. We quickly learn how Sasha’s flirting brings out the worst in Paul. Paul finds himself apologizing for a jealous outburst directed at the windsurf instructor. The point-of-view switches to actress Carol Davis recalling her horrifying rape on the beach not far from the Vincent’s hut by a man wearing a balaclava. This two-pronged opening with a peaceful beach scene and a violent assault in the opening chapter hooked me instantly.
It has been said that good fiction must have conflict. Kingsley has included enough conflict here for two novels. An incident on the beach puts Paul at odds with a young disturbed loner, a man named Stevie Clarke. Clarke, known by the locals as “The Sandman” doesn’t do well with confrontation. His resentment boils; he produces a large knife and aggressively warns Paul, “I’ll kill you the next time you cross me.” A short time after a jogger is killed, Paul informs the police that he believes Clarke is the killer. Clarke is desperate to get even with Paul for putting the police on him and he begins to stalk Leah relentlessly.
The police appear inept in their effort to catch the killer despite an obvious connection to the previous rape on the beach. Carol Davis contacts Paul and soon the pair are working together to prove to the police Stevie Clark is the killer/rapist. Leah’s attempt to help with the investigation only serves to muddy her father’s work when she hands over evidence that implicates Paul as the murderer to the detectives.
Sandman touches our primary emotions: jealousy, love, guilt, fear, hatred, and grief. As a father, I related to Paul’s unwavering commitment to keep his family safe. I also understood his discomfort with his wife’s tendency to flirt openly with men. Kingsley has written an intriguing mystery/psychological thriller with interesting, believable and well-developed characters. There are twists, turns, red herrings, and a healthy dose of hair-raising fear and suspense to keep even the most fickle reader captivated. The dialogue is authentic, and, along with the scene-painting narrative, you’ll feel like you’re on the beach witnessing the unfolding action.
Just when you think you have it all sorted out, the author changes directions—successfully keeping you guessing until the final pages. When you begin Sandman make sure you set aside a good bit of time, for you won’t stop reading until the last page is savored. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy a great mystery! 5 Stars
New Generation Publishing (2010)
ISBN: coming soon.
Reviewed by William Potter for Reader’s Choice Book Reviews