Review: While on an extended vacation — furlough, as he later characterizes it — in Australia, Miami police sergeant Merryll "Merry" Manning finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation — one in which he is the prime suspect — in Beachfront "Holiday", the third mystery in this series by John Howard Reid, originally published in 1985 as The Beach-Front Murders, but recently reissued by the author with a new title in trade paperback.
The victim is Susan Ford, an Australian citizen who lived for a few years in the US before recently returning to her homeland. Merryll had met her in Atlantic City, then followed her to Australia four months earlier. Not surprisingly, the police find Merryll's pleas of innocence somewhat hollow, as his reason for being in the country ("on holiday") is as weak as is his assertion that Susan rarely spoke to him and he was never in her apartment, though they lived in the same building.
Relatively short at less than 200 pages with a fast-moving plot interspersed with numerous flashback scenes, Beachfront "Holiday" has, nonetheless, a generic feel to it. Part of this can be attributed to the (possibly intentional) amateurish writing style, where many sentences end with an exclamation point. (There are eight on the first page alone … and none are necessary.) There is also the somewhat odd cover that includes the character's name but not the author's; it's as if the author wants to convey the impression that he is, indeed, Merry Manning, and that this is his story. Which may go a long ways towards explaining the profusion of exclamation points; he's clearly excited about being a part of this mystery! More significant, however, are the abrupt changes in narrative tense, from present to past, sometimes within the same paragraph. It's jarring, and almost certainly not intentional.
Another, admittedly less critical, problem with Beachfront "Holiday" is that there is no sense of setting here. The story largely takes place in a coastal resort area in Australia; given this plus the title, one might think that should be important in some way. But it really isn't, and that's a bit disappointing, as incorporating the locale in a more expressive manner could have added an extra layer of interest, which — in addition to a good editor — this book seriously needs.
Acknowledgment: John Howard Reid provided a copy of Beachfront "Holiday" for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Beachfront "Holiday": Sydney, Australia
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Beachfront "Holiday" by John Howard Reid — A Merryll Manning Mystery
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: March 2010
List Price: $12.50
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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