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on August 16, 2001
Travis McGee gets a check for $25,000 (a lot of dough for 1969) and the dying wish of an old friend, to look after her suicidal daughter. So McGee goes to Fort Courtney to observe the daughter, her sister and her husband. What McGee encounters is a series of unusual circumstances, including dead bodies, cheating spouses, and the evidence that somebody is spying on him. Could all of these things be connected? Sure - but only McGee could figure out the complicated connection. True to most McGee novels, justice is served in the end, although in a form the reader does not expect.
This is my 11th McGee novel. Clearly MacDonald writes in a more sophisticated style than 98% of the mystery writers today. A new reader may find it annoying that one must suffer through a good 100 pages before the action really begins, but this is typical MacDonald style. Not only do you get a complex mystery, but you get a lot of philosophy along the way.
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on February 28, 2000
This was my second John D. MacDonald book and my first Travis McGee book. I had heard that MacDonald could flat-out write, and I was not disappointed by this book. What I enjoyed the most was MacDonald's insight into the human condition; he really understood what motivated people. This helped his plotting and dialogue seem fresh and real even after 30 years.
I'm hooked. If you haven't read MacDonald you're missing out.
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on August 26, 2012
I have every dog-eared book in this series, and will read them till they fall apart. (and then keep reading!!)John D MacDonald Did the world of literature an immense service when he wrote these Travis McGee stories. When I sit down to read these books, it becomes a couple of weeks of pure enjoyment. I know I'm impressed by this series because I've memorized thousands of bits of Travis McGee trivia. Just as I did while reading and re-reading the Sherlock Holmes stories, and did so without effort! Travis McGee and Sherlock are a welcome and enjoyable part of my life!!
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on September 10, 2015
Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper is the tenth out of twenty-one Travis McGee novels. Although sometimes categorized as a mystery series, the McGee series may borrow some ideas from mysteries, but it is a series about as far from the standard PI genre as can be. McGee is not a PI. He’s a salvage consultant. When someone loses something of value and the normal lawful means of getting it back are not sufficient, he figures out how to outfox the conmen and nets a fifty percent profit of the haul. He lives on a houseboat in the Bahai Mar Marina on the Florida Coast. Often, he confronts conmen, swindlers, and just mean ones, but he is about as unofficial and off-the-books as they come.

This entry into the McGee legend follows some of the usual territory with an old flame looking up McGee and asking for his help, but there is nothing to salvage here, except perhaps a woman’s life. He’s asked by an old flame who he cruised with for a season after she was widowed and who has now died of cancer to look after one of her daughters, who is apparently suicidal. McGee isn’t sure how he can go about this, but looks into it and stumbles on a nest of intrigue and con games and blackmailers.

This novel has quite a bit less action than most the McGee books. Most of it is consumed with McGee sorting things out and logically deducing what is going on and who is who and what they want.

What’s really great about it isn’t necessarily the mystery so much as how MacDonald describes people so that, even if you haven’t met them, you know the type he is talking about. MacDonald has great instincts for understanding types of people and personalities and what makes them tick.
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on July 24, 2010
Surely you've read one or another of John MacDonald's "Travis McGee" novels. If you haven't, you might want to start with the very first, "The Deep Blue Goodbye." But you can also read them out of order, as I did, and "The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper" isn't a bad way to start. It's vintage MacDonald / McGee, a page turner worth every minute you choose to invest in it.

MacDonald was a master, a creator of characters, images, story lines, and profound concepts that you never really forget. A creator of prose that at times is unbelievably beautiful: elegant, deceptively simple, and often just perfectly constructed. He's the sort of writer other writers dream of being (exemplified by Stephen King's many heartfelt tributes to MacDonald).

This isn't really a review of the specific novel. I honestly don't see the point: the summary here at Amazon tells all you really need to know about the specific story. What you REALLY need to know is that -- with rare exceptions -- you simply can't go wrong with a MacDonald book. Every story is unique, and sturdy, and will leave you permanently affected.
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on March 7, 2014
I think this novel is better suited for readers who’ve already been introduced to Travis McGee. I would suggest reading at least two or three other McGee stories before tackling this one. This one is #10 in the series of 21, and enjoying this one is greatly enhanced if you already know McGee and his philosophical approach to his adventures.

I found all the backstory in the early chapters a little off-putting (or maybe just the way it jumped around), but I waded through it and was glad I did. I’m reading all the Travis McGee series in order, and while reading those early chapters I thought this one might have been one of his lesser quality endeavors, but then discovered that it turns out to be a fairly good one. That’s my subjective opinion, of course. It took a while for the plot to unfold, and then the mystery was solved and ended in a fast flurry. For those readers who desire the plot of any story to rip into them by the end of chapter one, or even sooner, then this story would not appeal to them. However, if you are a reader who enjoys being seduced by good storytelling, and are willing to trust that the author to eventually get you thoroughly entwined in both the plot and characters and give you a big dose of entertainment, then this story is definitely worth reading.

The plot is a little more intricate that in Travis McGee novels #1 thru #9. It’s a bit more complicated and a bit more circuitous. And the resolve sort of shows up in a bolt of lightning. And the characters are also a bit more difficult to figure out. It was a little disappointing that the character Dave Broon, who played such a significant role in the mystery, was treated in such a superficial manner. But that is part of the fun of reading mysteries, n’est-ce pa? It is for me, which is why I liked this story. I liked the fact that it could confuse me if I wasn’t paying attention.

This novel also includes more in-depth Travis McGee philosophies on life. Much more McGee introspection on the complexities of mankind than I found in the previous novels in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed these extended philosophic segues, but I also know that other readers might not. As such, this is probably a novel you should know about before you decide to read it, otherwise you might end up disappointed. It’s a solid 4-star for me, but I could easily see why another reader might give it a 2 or 3-star rating.

I don’t think this is the best novel to introduce a new reader to the Travis McGee series. You don’t have to go back to #1 in the series, although I would recommend it, but this novel will probably be more appreciated by those readers who have already joined the Travis McGee fan club and are receptive to a more in-depth exploration of his internal thoughts and a more complicated plot.
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on October 26, 2015
As I read John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series in chronological order, I find myself getting a bit disturbed by how McDonald seems to be straying from the initial premise of the series. McGee originally was a salvage specialist, someone who would for a hefty fee (half the take) recover as much of a client’s stolen/bilked, unrecoverable-for-all-practical-purposes property as he can. But in The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper (1969) and most of the previous books, McGee seems to function more as family counselor/clinical psychologist to friends and acquaintances from his past who have run into serious trouble.

Developing McGee’s character by filling out his background is one thing but it’s starting to look like McGee has known a heck of a lot of very unlucky people. That was the gist of the plot of four of the last five books to this point (and the fifth, Darker Than Amber, also involved a personal stake for McGee due to the murder of a young woman he had rescued and befriended); in fact, as far as I can tell, to this point, only three of the 10 books (The Deep Blue Goodbye, A Purple Place for Dying, The Quick Red Fox) can be said to involve McGee in a truly professional case with no prior acquaintance with the client.

Worse, Brown Paper Wrapper has some sizable plot holes, particularly one involving a certain piece of medical knowledge that seems to stump experts called in to the case but which McGee seems to clear up with one phone call. There’s also a rather convenient coincidence late in the book and a preternaturally compliant prosecutor who seems to acquiesce to tampering with evidence pretty readily.

I hope McDonald isn’t getting sloppy as I really do enjoy this series.
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on October 28, 2015
This was/is my FIRST Travis McGee novel. I bought it on Audio CD. There were quite a few times I found myself REplaying segments to get the gist of the story and the implications of A or B or C and then A's relationship to X or Y or Z ~ sometimes those relationships being explained by D or E or F. Complex ??

The setting: picture me driving on a long trip ~ paying attention to the road conditions and other drivers ~ while listening to this story. I really intend to SOLVE this mystery myself; so I'm paying attention. When I can't pay attention (surrounded by fast-moving traffic across 8 lanes with a turn off on highway so-&-so somewhere ahead) I turn off the story. I still found myself re-playing segments trying to solve the complexities of all those intra-personal relationships.

Now I see you asking yourself: would this be worth buying ?? Let me tell you: if you're prone to falling asleep by being bored to tears while driving a long distance ~ then the answer is a resounding YES: this story is way worth it. You ARE going to stay awake ! ! If you think you're solving it before the ending ~ think again. It's always an Eye-Opening challenge throughout the story. On the down side, those very challenges to putting the pieces of the puzzle together seem redundant. All in all, I'd say it's an average and good story. It's neither an award winning super-star nor a boring sleeper: it's average. Keep in mind: I'm NOT a literary critic. I lean more towards being a Farmer.
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on March 21, 2014
I have to give Travis McGee and partner Meyer a very good rating as likeable engaging characters with nice qualities such as loyalty as great friends, totally trustworthy, and amazingly imaginative schemes to tackle seemingly unsolvable serious situations. It is so well written, with great human interest and understanding of the various characters one encounters in these stories. I regret not having read the John D. MacDonald series of Travis McGee's various adventures before I read the Jack Reacher character in Lee Child's books. Nonetheless, I am finding this series of adventures very enjoyable. I would heartily recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a very well written mystery. I am sure it will result in wanting to stay with Travis McGee and friend Meyer until all all the tales involving them are read.
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on January 26, 2015
5 STARS--I have never read a book by John McDonald that did not rate 5 stars! This one is no exception. Great plot, great characters, great philosophy of contemporary conditions--still applicable today. This book was read in the beautiful setting of Boquete, Panama.
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