18 August 2010

Top mysteries challenge: The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald

There is no going past that point. All the roads are barricaded and all the bridges are blown. The fields are mined and the artillery has every sector zeroed in.


This is a good extended metaphor and an eloquent way of belabouring the point, which is then spoiled by a truce shortly afterwards. Can you guess what the metaphor refers to?

Year of publication: 1974
Series and no.: Travis McGee # 16
Genre: Mystery/thriller
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Amateur, crime magnet
Setting & time: Florida, USA, contemporary

Travis McGee gets a visit from Carrie, an old friend, who asks him to store nearly 100 thousand dollars (in cash) for her or, if she doesn’t return within a given time, get the money to her younger sister. Carrie is killed, seemingly in a traffic accident, but McGee senses foul play and he decides he owes it to her to investigate her death. This leads him and his friend Meyer into the company of all kinds of people, some suspicious and some not, and before long the body count begins to rise.

John D. MacDonald had a wonderful way with words. He was a funny and erudite writer with a distinct style, but was perhaps a little too fond of challenging the reader by using words that even a native speaker of English would need a dictionary to understand.

This book sparkles with interesting turns of phrase and a masterful use of language, and is also laugh-out loud funny at times (for an example, see the quote I posted earlier). The plotting is tight and the story has several interesting twists and turns, although there is a bit too much theorising going on that is based purely on how McGee and Meyer would like things to have happened. And of course they always turn out to be right or partially right, without much to go on. This detracted somewhat from my enjoyment of the story.

When I reviewed One Fearful Yellow Eye I mentioned McGee’s paternalistic attutude towards women. There isn’t so much of it here as there was in that book – here it comes more across as a deep and almost profound respect for women – but as per both anonymous comments on that book, there was indeed a woman who needed a touch of sexual healing in this book as well. I can well imagine that this would begin to grate if one were to read too many of the books within too short a span of time...

Rating: 4 stars
Books left in challenge: 81
Place on the list(s): CWA # 87
Awards and nominations: None I am aware of

1 comment:

George said...

A Deadly Shade of Gold is my favorite Travis McGee novel. Yes, Travis provides a little too much "sexual healing" in this series for my taste. But, most of these books were written in the Sixties and Seventies when attitudes were different.