Monday, August 29, 2011


Title: The Dreadful Lemon Sky
Author: John D. MacDonald
Bookmark: UP bookmark

It's not that I'm on a sudden MacDonald kick; it's that I found books in my apartment I'd never read before. I don't even know why I have them, or if they've been borrowed, and I need to return them to a rightful owner somewhere. If I borrowed a book from you years ago, let me know.

I'm glad I found them. I'd never read MacDonald before Cinnamon Skin, but I really like his work, even if some of it is a bit dated (many times during both books I thought "Holy shit! ...Well, it was the seventies..." or pondered how very different the story would have been if the protagonists had access to the internet or cell phones).

This time, an old acquaintance of McGee's (the jacket and Wikipedia article refer to her as "an old friend," but it turns out she was a one-night stand who later borrowed his boat for her honeymoon with a toolbag) shows up in the middle of the night with a box full of cash and a request: hold the cash. If he doesn't hear from her for a month, he should send it all to her sister. As payment, he keeps ten grand (roughly ten percent of the total stash). He quickly surmises that the money was no acquired through entirely legal channels, but she refuses to answer questions, insisting that he is being paid to hold the dough, not ask questions about it.

Naturally, she's dead before the month is up, and he decides to investigate.

The weird thing about the entire story is that while Meyer and McGee gets lots of solid leads and dutifully follow them all over Florida, they don't actually solve the case. They push enough buttons that the answer sort of falls out at their feet, but the answer they get isn't the one they expected--even though their expectations change a couple times along the way. For instance, when a prime suspect gets killed. They may have cracked the case, but I don't know that I'd say they solved it.

As any reader of mysteries might surmise, there is a lot more going on than anyone realizes, and by the end they have tangled with a drunken marina master (McGee "tangles" with the man's widow), a serial rapist with political ambitions, a landlord drug dealer, and a big nest of fire ants. Good times!

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posted by reyn at 6:44 PM


Friday, August 26, 2011

Skinnamon Sin

Title: Cinnamon Skin
Author: John D. MacDonald
Bookmark: the official bookmark of the Union Pacific Railroad

Generally, I really like OK GO, but they have one song called "Cinnamon Lips" that I hate. Hate. I can't even look at the cover of this book without that song popping in for a visit. Otherwise, I really liked it.

Travis McGee is some sort of salvage expert who lives in a houseboat (the Busted Flush) that he won in a poker game, so I immediately thought of Jack Spratt and his troubles getting into the Detective's Guild because he didn't have enough entertaining quirks. McGee is also prone to philosophizing over everything from domestic violence to proper physical regimens:
One very sound rule for the care of the body is always to keep in mind what it was designed to do. The body was shaped by the need to run long distances on resilient turf, to run very fast for short distances, to climb trees, and to carry loads back to the cave, so any persistent exercise you do which is not a logical part of that ancient series of uses is, in general, bad for the body. A succession of deep knee bends is destructive, in time. As are too many pushups. As is selective muscle development through weight-lifting. As is jogging on hard surfaces. A couple of years of such jogging and you are very likely never to walk in comfort again. Man is a walking animal, perfectly designed for it. The only more efficient energy use is the bicycle.
This book is not about a salvage operation; McGee's friend Meyer's boat is blown up, with Meyer's niece aboard (his only remaining family). Meyer was in Canada at the time; as a world-renowned economist (who also lives on a boat, until it blows up) he is frequently invited to lecture all over the place. It seems that while McGee handles the physicality and rawer, animal intelligence of the investigations, Meyer provides all the book-learnin' and soft speaking--to great effect. The two of them set out to find out why the niece died, why Meyer's boat was reduced to flaming shrapnel, and to find Meyer a new boat on which to reside. They end up solving a decades-old series of murders that nobody realized had been committed, and traveling as far as the Yucatan to track down the culprit. Good stuff.

On a side note, I did some internet poking to remind myself of Meyer's name, and discovered that all twenty-one Travis McGee novels have a color in their title. I have to wonder whether that was an afterthought, because I read two of them this month, and in both cases, the phrase which names the book doesn't appear until the penultimate or last chapter. I spent most of The Dreadful Lemon Sky wondering why the sky was lemony, and what the hell made it so dreadful (besides being a very unusual color for sky)


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posted by reyn at 12:25 PM