Merryll Manning: The Health Farm Murders
Reviewed by Enid Grabiner for RebeccasReads (04/10)
Set against the setting of the spectacular Blue Mountains outside of Sydney, Australia, Merryll Manning, a Miami police sergeant, attends what soon promises NOT be the relaxation and healthy respite he anticipated at the Happy Valley Health Farm.
It seems unusual to have a male-only population seeking a relief from their stressful lives to engage in a controlled nutrition and exercise regime as that run by Sister Susan. Strange as it may seem, they do come! On train transit this diverse group of men meet up and begin to assess and annoy one another.
Shortly after settling in at the farm, three murders take place. What is the connection to the victims and what is the motive? What involvement does Sergeant Lambert, the local policeman, have? Why does he so readily point the finger at Jimbo Punter, the resident thug? What could a film critic, a minister, a text book publisher, a movie house owner and an odd assortment of other guests have in common?
Not surprisingly, Merryll is pressed into service to help solve the crime. This is one of many Merryll Manning mysteries published in Australia, now debuting in America. It gives a promising new character and series to be added to the likes of other police driven mysteries.
In this book, the geographic features of the area are as vividly described as only one who is intimately familiar with the setting can do. The nutritional information provided is also well researched. The characters and the plot are based on snippets of several true incidents, although not true to this particular situation.
All this is wound up in an enjoyable Agatha Christie type mystery packed with lots of twists, turns and red herrings. Thank goodness for the identifying list of characters prefacing the story to which I kept referring back. With such a large group of involved individuals, it was necessary to keep refreshing their identities!