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Darker Than Amber (Travis McGee Mysteries) Mass Market Paperback – February 27, 1996

4.5 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews
Book 7 of 21 in the Travis McGee Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

There are two very good things about this seventh entry in the Travis McGee series. The first is the opening line: “We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody dropped the girl off the bridge.” That’s good, very good, but the second thing is even better: after a couple of brief cameos, Meyer, the hirsute economist and resident guru to the beach denizens of Bahia Mar Marina, who lives aboard The John Maynard Keynes (birthed a couple of slips down from McGee’s Busted Flush), takes his first turn as a fully fledged supporting character. A McGee novel is never less than entertaining, but the books in which Meyer has a substantial role are always a cut above. Here’s McGee describing his pal: “You can watch the Meyer Magic at work and not know how it’s done. He has the size and pelt of the average Adirondack black bear. He can walk a beach, go into any bar, cross any playground, and acquire people the way blue serge picks up lint, and the new friends believe they have known him forever.” Consider yourself a piece of lint because after encountering blue-serge Meyer, you, too, will want to sit cross-legged at his feet and listen to him opine about the world—something he does plenty of in the course of helping McGee help the girl who was tossed off the bridge. (The pair were wrapping up a night’s snook fishing and happened to be idling their boat under the bridge from which the woman was thrown.) It turns out the nearly drowned victim is no ordinary beach girl but, rather, a piece of bait in a deadly cruise-ship scam in which pigeons are plucked from the flock, shorn of their cash, and unceremoniously tossed overboard. The lady wants out of the game, and McGee and Meyer set out to help her, which requires their booking a Caribbean cruise themselves and outconning the cons. McGee on a commercial cruise ship seems wrong in a hundred different ways, but it does give MacDonald the opportunity to decry the spectacle of hundreds of overstuffed, sunburned Iowans waddling about a lumbering, creaking vessel in search of the next buffet. This is a pivotal entry in the series, though, not because of the story but because it gets Meyer into the game and gives the sedentary intellectual a chance to develop his con-man chops. As McGee explains it, he needs Meyer’s “orderly brain . . . to balance the McGee habit of bulling my way in and breaking the dishes.” --Bill Ott


Praise for John D. MacDonald and the Travis McGee novels
The great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller.”—Stephen King
“My favorite novelist of all time . . . All I ever wanted was to touch readers as powerfully as John D. MacDonald touched me. No price could be placed on the enormous pleasure that his books have given me. He captured the mood and the spirit of his times more accurately, more hauntingly, than any ‘literature’ writer—yet managed always to tell a thunderingly good, intensely suspenseful tale.”—Dean Koontz
“To diggers a thousand years from now, the works of John D. MacDonald would be a treasure on the order of the tomb of Tutankhamen.”—Kurt Vonnegut
“A master storyteller, a masterful suspense writer . . . John D. MacDonald is a shining example for all of us in the field. Talk about the best.”—Mary Higgins Clark
“A dominant influence on writers crafting the continuing series character . . . I envy the generation of readers just discovering Travis McGee, and count myself among the many readers savoring his adventures again.”—Sue Grafton
“One of the great sagas in American fiction.”—Robert B. Parker
“Most readers loved MacDonald’s work because he told a rip-roaring yarn. I loved it because he was the first modern writer to nail Florida dead-center, to capture all its languid sleaze, racy sense of promise, and breath-grabbing beauty.”—Carl Hiaasen
“The consummate pro, a master storyteller and witty observer . . . John D. MacDonald created a staggering quantity of wonderful books, each rich with characterization, suspense, and an almost intoxicating sense of place. The Travis McGee novels are among the finest works of fiction ever penned by an American author and they retain a remarkable sense of freshness.”—Jonathan Kellerman
“What a joy that these timeless and treasured novels are available again.”—Ed McBain
“Travis McGee is the last of the great knights-errant: honorable, sensual, skillful, and tough. I can’t think of anyone who has replaced him. I can’t think of anyone who would dare.”—Donald Westlake
“There’s only one thing as good as reading a John D. MacDonald novel: reading it again. A writer way ahead of his time, his Travis McGee books are as entertaining, insightful, and suspenseful today as the moment I first read them. He is the all-time master of the American mystery novel.”—John Saul

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Product Details

  • Series: Travis McGee Mysteries
  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett; 38002nd edition (February 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449224465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449224465
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #997,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Cynthia K. Robertson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 8, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Travis McGee is at it again in John D. MacDonald's 7th book in the McGee series, Darker Than Amber. McGee and his sidekick, Meyer, are minding their own business when a case is pretty much dropped in their laps. As the two men are fishing while tied up to a bridge, a woman is thrown off the bridge and sinks right in front of them like a stone. McGee dives overboard and is able to rescue the woman-despite the fact that her feet are wired to a cement block. The woman, Vangie, turns out to be a high-priced prostitute who was involved in a scam gone bad. It takes sometime, but McGee and Meyer are finally able to get the gist of Vangie's story, and they of course decide to help.

MacDonald does his usual job of providing a great tale of mystery, murder and intrigue. But one of the things I most enjoyed about Darker than Amber is that after having several cameo appearances in earlier books, we finally get to meet a fleshed-out Meyer. McGee and Meyer perform a good Dr. Watson/Sherlock Holmes routine, and their camaraderie rivals many of the other detective-sidekick combinations including Spenser and Hawk, and Poirot and Captain Hastings.

I am now 1/3 of the way through this 21 book series, and I have not been disappointed in a one. In fact, MacDonald just gets stronger and stronger with each subsequent book. It won't be long until I finish the entire series.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've read almost all of the Travis M series and I believe this is the best one of the lot (Dreadful Lemon Sky and Dress Her in Indigo get very honorable mentions). The plot is a bit improbable but once you buy into it (hey a lot of Crazy stuff happens to Trav), this book really takes off. The real star is McGee and his insights into women and the dark recesses of the human mind. It's not real deep but deeper than your average paperback hero. If you don't like this one, you won't like the others.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Travis & Meyer are midnight fishing aspart of a recreational cruise on the Busted Flush. They witness an attempted murder, and effect a rescue. The title refers to the rescuee, a girl whose eyes, as McGee notes, are "darker than amber"; McDonald leaves the reader to discover that her soul is considerably darker than amber, too.
After her recovery, she decides to reclaim money earned with her former associates; her greed allows her old cohorts to silence her permanently. MCGee & Meyer had learned the girl was part of an elaborate lonely heart sting, baiting well-to-do men, reeling in their money, and throwing their bodiesinto the sea. McGee metes out justicein the name of selfdefense & in memory of the numerous men murdered aspart of this scam.
Until the vividly recorded rescue, the story moves quickly, almost likethe tide coming in. After the rescue,the McDonald philosophy on the dark side of life is woven into the slowly unraveling plot. The writing is full of local color, witty dialogue, McGee/Meyer pranks, and numerous observations on the human condition, machinations, and motiviations.
Thebad guys get what is coming to them, and there is financial recompense for the murdered victims families, and forMcGee & Meyer. As a reader, I felt McDonald had kicked me hard in the stomach, and while I was doubled over,rubbed my face innto the evil that men can do. Like cGee, I can return to mylife, but a part of this story clings to my memory months after I have read it, like a fictional metaphor to remind me of the darker than amber colors in the real world.
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The late John D. MacDonald continues to impress new generations of mystery/thriller readers with his Travis McGee "color-title" series, more than three decades after he began it.
DARKER THAN AMBER isn't the first McGee adventure (that's The Deep Blue Good-Bye, and that's where serious new readers should begin), but it is one of the best and a long cut above most of MacDonald's competitors. Perhaps a bit "darker" than many of the 20 other McGee novels, AMBER isn't for faint hearts; but it also isn't merely excessive violence-for-violence-sake, either.
McGee, the "thinking person's private eye", is a self-styled "salvage expert" whose frequent salvage is a friend's soul... What a guy: tough, tender, fearless and intelligent all at the same time! (With a unique and lovable sidekick, Meyer, supporting casts of fascinating characters, and very well realized South Florida and Mexican locales thrown in for good measure: a real "find".)
As to the possibilities of an upcoming McGee film series (AMBER already was filmed once, starring Rod Taylor), I'd love to hear more: an exciting possibility!
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"In that light the color of her eyes surprised me. Light shrunk the pupils small. The irises were not as dark as I had imagined. They were a strange yellow-brown, a curious shade, just a little darker than amber...She looked across at me and accepted the appraisal with the same professional disinterest with which the model looks into the camera lens while they are taking light readings."

- McGee sizing up Vangie, a very professional new acquaintance

I began reading the Travis McGee series at the wrong point - THE DREADFUL LEMON SKY - so it's a bit difficult for me to quite grasp the notion that Meyer, McGee's closest friend and a neighbour in the Bahia Mar marina, wasn't built into the series from the beginning. DARKER THAN AMBER introduces Meyer to the series as an already long-time friend, obscuring the fact that he's a new character, participating for the first time in one of McGee's cases from the moment a joint fishing jaunt turns into the rescue of a very tough pretty girl dumped off a bridge with a concrete block wired to her feet.

"I'm in the logic business, McGee. I deduce possibilities and probabilities from what I can observe. My God, man, compared to the mists and smokes of economic theory and practice, the world of actual events seems almost oversimplified. A corporate financial statement is the most nonspecific thing there is. If a man can't read the lines between the lines between the lines, he might as well stuff his money into a hollow tree.
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