The Long Lavender Look by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This 12th novel in the Travis McGee series starts not with the beginning of a salvage job, as so many in the series do, but with McGee and Meyer in a car crash, getting shot at, and arrested for murder. So initially the story is about piling it higher and deeper on top of McGee to learn if he can dig fast enough to keep from getting buried in shit. Yes, he can dig fast enough to get out from under one pile and into another where the manure isn't accumulating quite as fast as in the one he'd escaped from. That's our McGee out of jail, but he can't leave the county, so he starts snooping around. The cast of off-the-rails characters grows, as do the complications, as McGee stirs up his own brand of shit while unraveling an almost too complicated whodunit about a years-ago armored car heist. It's a Travis McGee story, so you just knew that there would be a pot of gold out there somewhere for him to chase down. Plenty of action down the home stretch and MacDonald delivers not one but two of his trademark climactic action sequences. Here it's like a rollercoaster with two big humps before the hard brake at the finish. Actually, a great standalone crime/noir. Because it doesn't follow the series M.O., if you'd never read any of the others it doesn't matter. For McGee fans it's another episode. For noobs, it works on its own and maybe draws them into the series. MacDonald firing on all cylinders in this one. My one ding is that at times the narration slips into McGee lecturing himself in third-person, and although I'd agree that narrative move has a certain utility when it comes to characterization, for the most part, McGee talking to himself like that in a first-person POV was annoying. MacDonald also delivers a great metaphor for the mystery McGee is trying to solve: Before Pluto was discovered, the planet was inferred from other observed phenomena - it had to be there - just as the hidden antagonist of this story is waiting to be found and confronted by McGee.
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