Monday, April 13, 2015

Murder in the Wind: Mini-Review

In Murder in the Wind (aka Hurricane) by John D. MacDonald (1956) we have a suspenseful tale of natural disaster and man-made murder. Hurricane Hilda, a storm of terrifying intensity is headed straight for Highway 19 in Florida. In its path, a half dozen cars carrying a disparate group of people--headed out of Florida on business of their own and trying to outrun the storm. When they are forced to detour off the main road and the storm blocks their path, they must seek shelter in a rickety, abandoned house. The ragtag bunch includes an undercover agent who has just taken revenge for a personal tragedy, a small-time criminal in over his head with sidekick and girlfriend in tow, a beautiful young widow trying to start over, a young family returning north after a failed attempt to make a living in Florida, a gold-digging ex-tennis player and his wealthy young wife, and a businessman whose life's work is crumbling before his eyes because of the inadequacy of his subordinate (also along for the ride). Their refuge from the awesome power of nature becomes a sort of grand and grisly hotel - especially once the invisible hand of flying death descends.

Less a mystery than a survival story, most of the suspense comes from the looming storm rather than from any doubt about who was murdered and why or by whom. When it happens, we know the full story. The only question in regards to the killer is whether s/he will make it out of the storm alive and escape justice. More than half the story is focused on each of the six cars headed towards zero hour in the abandoned house. Told from various points of view, we get to know who each of the characters is, their back story, and what events have set them on Highway 19 headed north out of Florida and into one of the most violent hurricanes to hit Florida (at least until the 1950s). There are tensions of all sorts--from the normal tensions of people facing a natural disaster to tensions between the couples to the tensions between small-time crooks and the law (the federal agent). The storm will prove who are heroes and heroines and who are cowards and who will take advantage of the storm to do a little murder.

Overall, a well-told tale by a master stylist with well-rounded characters. My only disappointment was going in expecting a mystery and not finding much mystification.  ★★ and a half

This fulfills the "Multiple Title" square on the Golden Vintage Bingo card.


Anonymous said...

I read a few of the Travis McGee books in my distant youth but they didn't make much of an impression nd yet, from treading reviews of his work like yours, I keep felling I;ve missed out - I am definitelty going to start again with MacDonald - thanks Bev.

Bev Hankins said...

Sergio: This is a stand-alone--not a Travis McGee book. So far I've only read one McGee and it was pretty good. Not my normal thing--but good.

fredamans said...

Sounds scary enough being surrounding around the time of a hurricane, let alone murder. Great review!

Unknown said...

I love the covers from thrillers of this era. It sounds like this would make a good movie.
Thanks for linking up your mystery reviews. We have more than 40 for March/April.