The Scarlet Ruse by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The closer I get to the end of my time rereading John D. MacDonald's novels the more I'm feeling that the Travis McGee series has not held up as well as MacDonald's noir novels. In this the fourteenth in the McGee series we have Trav doing mostly investigative type work, and the only action comes in the final third when we are treated to another of MacDonald's stellar rollercoaster structured climactic sequences. Not a fan of the long anti-climactic summary ending which follows, so let me tell you what I like about this one. The teasing out of a stamp collecting scam; and then learning all about stamp collecting. Watching the Mary Alice character deconstruct before our eyes by what she says and does. Her stinging dialogue is stunning and brilliantly crafted to reveal character. The edginess between Trav and MA, the jousting, whenever they are in a scene together keeps a live current rippling throughout this novel. MacDonald, the old OSS guy, deploys a lot of his spy craft via McGee and it is fascinating anthropology to follow along as McGee navigates back in the day before cell phones and google and the metaverse. Among the thematic highlights are McGee's declining capabilities, his suffering another near-death beating, and McGee once again throwing Meyer into the path of a scythe wielding reaper. These all foreshadow a series working its way to the end.
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