Cinnamon Skin by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Number 20 of the Travis McGee series continues a couple of themes from where Free Fall in Crimson left off. McGee is still playing touchy-feely with Annie and he's still trying to help Meyer deal with his residual depression after his take down by the biker Dirty Bob. When Meyer's boat is blown up, killing his niece, we are in uncharted territory for the series. No salvage job for a client this time. It's all about revenge and MacDonald is at his best exploring the psychological depths of the characters. Structurally, the story is also quite similar to Crimson in that we have a powerful villain who is off stage until the end. We know him from stories of his exploits without actually seeing him in action. I'm not a fan of this structure, much prefer learning about a villain by having them do evil in real time. Also disappointed that we didn't get one of those great multi-scene climactic sequences that MacDonald was such a master at writing. Just one, slightly implausible, setup that delivers an uppercut for sure, but was much shorter than the usual McGee endings and that kept this from being one of the great books in the series. The high points are McGee and Meyer investigating to learn the villain's past, Meyer's recovery, and the varied settings as they go from Florida to Texas to upstate New York and eventually to Mexico. Good stuff, but just mid-tier for me.
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