Excellent Travis McGee outing,
This review is from: Cinnamon Skin (Travis McGee Mysteries) (Mass Market Paperback)
This 20th and penultimate Travis McGee adventure is one of the best of the series. Travis seems to have successfully negotiated the cultural changes from his beginnings in the sexist early 1960s to this one, published in 1982. But he's still Travis McGee, still a maverick, still his own man and still the knight errant.
After the four year layoff between 1974 and 1978, MacDonald really embraced the possibilities of the series character, so you must read the last five novels in order (though "Empty Copper Sea" is barely worth bothering with, and Green Ripper is so atypical). There are plot elements that carry across from novel to novel; in fact, "Cinnamon Skin" begins with the exact same conversation between McGee and girlfriend Annie Renzetti about Meyer that ended "Free fall in Crimson."
I felt like Travis was coming back into form in "Free Fall" and he hits his stride in this novel. This one features a classic JDM villain, whose menace grows more ominous the more of his "back trail" McGee and Meyer investigate. Unfortunately, instead of embracing the fact that sometimes people are just bad, as T. McGee usually does, JDM tries to explore the psychology of the villain---what made him bad---and it doesn't come off as particular plausible or convincing. Perhaps this is one aspect of negotiating the cultural changes from the early 60s to the early 80s that, in retrospect is regrettable. Some people are just bad, and we don't particularly care why, as long as they are eliminated from society. In fact, no one knows why, and speculating about it just comes across as a probably wrong, and certainly a waste of time and energy.
Some of JDM's cultural comments are almost uncanny. Take this one, written a decade before the Internet: "Soon the bosses of the microcomputer revolution will sell us preprogrammed units for each household which will provide entertainment, print out news, purvey mail order goods, pay bills, balance accounts, keep track of expenses, and compute taxes." If that's not an uncanny prediction of today's Internet dependent world, of what I'm doing right now, I don't know what is. MacDonald was prescient. He may not have been able to write different "voices" for different characters, but he knew where society was going.