Top critical review
One person found this helpful
Brown Wrapper a Bit Frayed?
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.