This is the first book in John D. MacDonald's long-running Travis McGee series. McGee is an earlier, grittier, less handsome version of Thomas Magnum Although not licensed as a private investigator, McGee works as one out of his Florida-moored houseboat, The Busted Flush. Reasoning that he may not live to retirement age, McGee takes his retirement in a series of vacations after each "score" replenishes his cash.
McGee offers every client the same deal: If they have lost something of value, he will attempt to recover it. If he succeeds, he and the client will split the recovered amount equally. If nothing is recovered, the client owes McGee nothing. McGee chooses these projects very carefully.
In this book, McGee looks for something stolen from a friend of a friend. Nobody knows what it was except for the man who originally buried it in the front yard. And he is long dead. The investigation puts McGee on the trail of a cruel exploiter of women. The story becomes a race to find this monster before his trail of injured innocents can grow longer.
This book brought back everything I enjoyed about Travis McGee when I read these books as a teenager. He has high standards which are not always honored. And he is prone to long internal speeches about the life paths of twenty-something "bunnies," the relationship between overpopulation and aggression, and all sorts of things. Like Jim Rockford, McGee occasionally miscalculates, sometimes blunders, and has recurring bad luck. He always seems to get the girl, but never for very long.
This was my first MacDonald book, and all things considered, it was an O.K. book. It is a traditional American mystery with a hansom, smooth talking, tanned Floridian (Travis McGee)as the hero of the story. It was a quick read and I recomend it for any fan of crime fiction. However, the book falls short for a few reasons. First, I find little originality in the plot. Right from the beginning of the novel, when the problem was introduced, I had no doubt how the story would conclude. Sure enough, I was right. To me, it seemed to be a generic, open-and-shut mystery novel with little real suspense and no plot twists like I would expect in a good mystery. Secondly, I'm no feminist, but the overt machismo in this book got tiring. All of them women in this novel were helpless victims throwing themselves at Travis Macgee, who always did his best to help out the poor little ladies. I understand that this was written in the 1960's when these sorts of things were not as important. That notwithstanding, I still got a little sick of his constant portrayel of men as the saviors of women. But please, don't just take my word for it. I may have given it three stars, but it seems like most people give it five stars. There are obviousley a lot of people who really like this novel. I just am not one of them. Go out and read it for yourself.
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According to rumor, when John MacDonald first debuted Travis McGee in 1964, he submited five novels at once. Ritual considers The Deep Blue Good-by as the true first novel, although there is little evidence that would favor any of them. All can be read independently, and all are excellent reading. McGee makes his living by retrieving things that are hopelessly lost and tasking a hefty percentage off the top. This funds his idyllic existence on the Busted Flush, a housboat in Lauderdale. As McGee puts it, he is tacking his retirement in chunks spread over his life rather than all at once. When Chookie McCall, a friendly dancer tries to get McGee to listen to the probelms of one of the women in her dance troupe McGee's first reaction is to say no. But his sense of chivalry betrays him, and he finds himself drawn into the story of Catherine Kerr, who suspects that her estranged husband ran away with a nest egg that her father left for his family before he went to prison and to his death. Soon McGee, the Busted Flush, and a Rolls Royce pickup truck named Miss Agnes are out hunting for Junior Allen and the mysterious treasure he is suspected of taking. What McGee discovers soon enough is that Allen isn't just a crook, he is a true socipath. The story begins to take ugly turns and we quickly find out that even white knights can get very dirty. MacDonald's mystery storys are more often roller-coaster rides than quiet journeys, and The Deep Blue Good-by is no exception. McGee is noble defender, tough guy, and patient listener as the circumstances require. What he never is, is boring. What sets MacDonald's novels apart from his many imitators is his tight control of language and pacing.Read more ›
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