Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Dreadful Lemon Sky

The Dreadful Lemon Sky (1974) by John D. MacDonald

Travis McGee is awakened by an intruder on his boat, The Busted Flush. He grabs for his trusty gun, but instead of someone out for his blood it is one of his lady friends--Carrie Milligan. He hasn't seen Carrie for quite some time...not since she got married to Ben. She's no longer married and she's desperate for a friend she can trust with no questions asked. You see...she's got a package with a little over a hundred thousand dollars in it and she wants Travis to stash it for her for about two weeks. If she doesn't come back for it by then...well, then, she's not coming back for it and he's to deliver all but $10,000 of it to her sister. The $10,000 is his fee for babysitting her package. Of course, Travis has questions, but he agrees to stash the money without getting any answers.

You know what's coming. Carrie doesn't come back. Carrie is hit by a truck on a lonely stretch of road and Travis isn't ready to believe it was an accident. So, he and his buddy Meyer decide to head for the northern coast of Florida and investigate in the little town where Carrie died. The dig up an amateur marijuana smuggling operation, a slick young lawyer who likes to prey on the ladies and who seems to have more ready cash than a man just establishing his practice ought to, and a missing partner in the company where Carrie worked. Soon Travis and Meyer have all the threads in their hands, but just when they've used them to fashion a noose for one of the suspects they realize that it could just as easily fit someone else too. 

This is the sixteenth installment in MacDonald's Travis McGee series and it's the second McGee novel I've ever read. I enjoyed it every bit as much as the first one* even if the body count is a bit higher. I said at the time that on the face of it, this series is SO not my kind of thing. I'm not really into this kind of private eye, er "Salvage Consultant" thing. But Travis isn't really your usual gritty, hard-boiled investigator. He ventures into philosophy every now and then. Like

Guilt is the most merciless disease of man. It stains all the other areas of living. It darkens all skies.

And [on reasons for lovemaking]

The biggest and most important reason in the world is to be together in a way that makes life a little less bleak and solitary and lonesome. To exchange the I for We. In the biggest sense of the word, it's cold outside. And kindness and affection and gentleness build a nice warm fire inside.

Travis makes his way into a lot of ladies' beds (or gets them into his), but he puts more feeling into it than a lot of hardboiled private eyes. And he knows when to say no to a pair of beckoning eyes. [As with Carrie in the beginning of the book.]

As I said in my previous review, MacDonald can write. Imagery? You got it. Philosophical commentary? You got it. Social commentary on the world of the early 1970s? You got it. Interesting side-kick and peripheral characters? You got those too. I particularly like the character of Captain Harry Max Scorf (a local investigator). He's a man with a sense of justice that won't quit and runs into a moral conflict when the people who will see that he gets his pension want him to drop the case. He's also a man who can read Travis pretty good and knows when our hero is holding out on him. It was interesting to see those two play off one another. 

A really good entry in the series. It's still not the type of book that I'll rush to get every book in the series...but I do have Nightmare in Pink waiting on one of the TBR mountains around here. I can definitely recommend Travis McGee--especially to those who like private investigators from the 1960s and 70s. ★★ and 1/2.

(*Dress Her in Indigo--which I read about ten years ago; has it really been that long?!)

Deaths = 6 (one hit by truck; one explosive; one hit with heavy bag; one strangled;  one intense allergic reaction; one shot)
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza Silver #16 [More than one culprit]
Calendar of Crime: May [Primary Action]

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