All in the family – A review of the novel ‘Harrington Manor’

“It’s miraculous how the shallow can injure in such a profound way” – Anna Jae

A family is in many ways reminiscent of a fruit bearing tree, you have the strong trunk that is the matriarch or patriarch supporting the weight of many that are dependent on it. And just like with trees, all it takes is a single rotten member to spoil everything and bring down the whole family along with it. So it becomes critical to identify & weed out the troublemaker at the earliest.

Ronald M. James’s novel ‘Harrington Manor’ takes you to 1920’s California and into the heart of murder mysteries and other sinister criminal frivolities happening within the vast expanse of Orange County, land owned by wealthy families. The Harrington family is headed by the patriarch with the army background, Peter also known as the Colonel, his wife Corrina and their four children, Sheppard, Reginald, Margot and Orson; they are as different from each other as it gets. While the elder two sons, Shepp & Reggie are always at loggerheads with their father to gain control over his vast finances, Margot is still in the process of discovering herself and ironically it’s only the non conformist son, Orson who shows any interest in carrying forward the farming business of the family. But when a couple of Harrington members start dropping dead, it raises a lot of questions and accusations fly thick & fast across warring family members which soon piques interest in the local law enforcement agency. Detective and not inspector Sidney Snipes enters the scene and starts an investigation which reveals such terrifying truths to the Harrington family as it does to the reader.

Ronald’s writing has this charming prose that will hook you in with its poetic brilliance hardly a sentence into the book. The narrative intervenes smoothly with the back stories of each of the characters along with that of the main story, doing full justice to both. All members of the family, including the butler Charles have been given enough space for us to explore their personalities in detail. There are small things that go a long way in creating the perfect atmosphere the author wants the reader to envision and one of these things in this book is the careful selection of the words and the general vocabulary which is consistent with the background and the time in which the story is set in.

Almost half way mark into the book and after the occurrence of a major event, the book shifts into a different gear and from there on, the pace and the mood of the book changes quite dramatically. The writing, especially when it comes to dialogue writing deserves special mention; the back and forth snappy dialogues between the main players are a definite highlight. It is also a masterful ability to be able to show each character’s personality by modulating their dialogues in order to create a separate & unique identity for each of them. You can in fact almost picture these characters as actors in a movie mouthing these dialogues with different accents and slangs.

One understated element of this murder mystery novel is the abundance of natural humor that is ever present in these lines, it’s never forced humor for its sake but rather it comes across effortlessly because of the differences and quirks in each character. You will be surprised at how often you will find yourself smiling and chuckling away as you are reading some of these passages. The investigation and interrogation scenes involving detective Sidney Snipes are some of the best scenes in the book. The editing too is top notch and the plot twists and turns will leave you amazed and you will never be sure of who the actual culprit is till it is revealed to you at the end.

There are a lot of individual sequences which when combined together makes this novel fully worth your time. The characters, the slick prose and the snappy dialogues all combine to make this a memorable work. I recommend this book not only to mystery lovers, but also to anyone who wants to read a well written book. And the only spoiler I will give you is that it’s a murder mystery novel about a wealthy family with a butler and no, it’s not the butler.

Product Details

Print Length: 280 pages

Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1499366205

Publisher: Mythic Dragon Publishing; First Edition edition (May 7, 2014)

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.


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