Detective Lets His Grip Slacken
Another Merryll Manning murder mystery, but this time the plot is very light on. It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to discover who is the villain of the piece fairly early in the narrative.
But the characterization of narrator-hero-anti-hero Merryll Manning is brilliant.
One gets the impression that this, the sixth Merryll Manning book, represents a slackening of the case built up in the previous books.
The plot of "Merryll Manning: Trapped on Mystery Island" seems to be almost incidental, while Manning gets a chance to pontificate about publishers, agents, academics, writers, women, ex-servicemen’s clubs and organizations and their occasionally lame-brained officials. He emerges as a sexist, self-centered, lecherous eccentric, just the sort you grow to love hating.
With "Trapped on Mystery Island", the role of Merryll Manning as one of this nation’s most distinctive literary characters should now be well established.
As usual, the writing of John Howard Reid, the author, is entertaining and evocative.
Let’s hope that the seventh Merryll Manning book represents a return to the type of storytelling to be found in books one to five.
[This review by Maria Trefely-Deutch was published in the nation's highest circulation newspaper, "The Sunday Telegraph"].