Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Health Farm Murders by John Howard Reid

The Health Farm Murders by John Howard Reid.
 Genre: Mystery
 Length: 230 pages
 Publisher:  Lulu Press.  

 About The Book:

"Merryll Manning: The Health Farm Murders" is the second in a series of highly acclaimed mystery suspense novels that began life overseas back in 1985. Manning is a police sergeant, which is certainly not an unusual occupation for the hero of a series of detective thrillers. Admittedly, he comes across as somewhat eccentric, but this again could be rated as a fairly conventional trait among the clue-hunting heroes of crime fiction. Furthermore, Manning usually works in Miami, Florida, a tried-and-true venue in numerous films and novels. What does set Manning slightly apart from the pack, however, is that his mother was an Australian whom his American father met and married in Sydney during WW2. In "The Health Farm Murders", Manning decides to take an Australian vacation at a health farm in the so-called "Blue Mountains", west of Sydney. A famous tourist attraction, these mountains more often glow red and pink rather than blue -- as the author's cover photo demonstrates. In fact, although slightly disguised, the area in which the action takes place, was firmly based on a real town, Blackheath. All the geographical details are truthfully described, although the characters, aside from Manning himself (who bears more than a passing resemblance to the author), remain totally fictitious. Some readers may find the health advice quoted in this book a little strange. Nonetheless, it accurately reflects the ideas of several highly respected nutritionists. Although it has been out of print for over 20 years, "The Health Farm Murders" was a best-seller in England and Australia. It was picked up by two publishers and went through three large hardcover editions. A French translation appeared in 1992. U.S./Canadian rights were sold for $5,000 but the book was not published, so this marks not only the novel's first appearance as a paperback, but also its debut in the U.S.A.

My Thoughts:

Merryll Manning just thinks he is getting to take a vacation from his stressful job at the Police department. He heads to Sister Susan's Health Farm but he does not find the restful place he has hoped for. Instead, he finds himself in the middle of trouble. Several visitors start dying at the farm and the Police Sergeant there in Happy Valley thinks he knows who is responsible. But Merryll is not convinced he knows the truth so he starts to investigate everyone. Merryll comes close to losing his life. In the end his discovery of the truth is very surprising.

You will want to follow this story to the end. Each character keeps you questioning who the true murderer could be. The author does a great job of describing the different places and people so that you get a feel for exactly how the story takes place. If you love mystery stories then you will want to read this surprise ending!

Teaser Snippet:
"I didn't know it at the time, but there was some-one standing outside, probably not more than a few yards away, some-one with  insanity in their heart and future blood on their hands!"

* A complimentary review copy was provided by the author.

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