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The Green Ripper: A Travis McGee Novel Paperback – October 8, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews
Book 18 of 21 in the Travis McGee Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* If The Empty Copper Sea is the most romantic book in the Travis McGee series, The Green Ripper is, far and away, the darkest. As it happens very near the novel’s beginning, and as it’s announced on the dust jacket, it’s no spoiler to reveal that Gretel Howard, the love of McGee’s life, the woman poised to take him away from the lazy hedonism of the marina, dies a sudden and violent death, the victim of a poison dart, the kind Soviet agents affix to the tips of umbrellas. But why Gretel, who was working as a physical trainer and tennis coach at an innocuous fat farm near Fort Lauderdale? Apparently because she accidentally saw a man at the farm whom she recognized as being part of a religious cult that once recruited her former sister-in-law. But that still doesn’t make much sense to Trav or his big-brained pal Meyer until a couple of federal agents show up and fill in some of the blanks: The Church of the Apocrypha is a religious cult, yes, but it’s also a heavily armed terrorist organization intent on fomenting class warfare in the U.S. Trav, of course, is sworn off any attempt to investigate the group, but he has other ideas—a campaign far different from his usual Robin Hoodish ventures: “This time, my dead love, I am not doing my knightly routine. I have shelved that as inappropriate for the occasion. The old tin-can knight had too many compunctions, scruples, whatevers. For this caper, I am the iceman. I have come here and brought the ice. It is a delivery service. One time only.” Shirking his McGee identity and signing his houseboat over to Meyer, Trav goes on the road, landing in Northern California and allowing himself to be captured by the cult and then joining their motley crew of terrorists, 10 men and 2 women trained to kill and devoted to a perverted ideal. He displays enough strength and knowledge of weaponry to become an asset to the group, holding back just enough of his skills to save for later. Then the bloodbath begins: “With the ghastly, toothy grin of the skull head of death looking over my shoulder, I was intensely alive.” This is a new kind of life for our Travis, however, and the contrast between the knight errant, helper of the meek, and this new, determined angel of death is shocking both to the reader and to Travis himself. Robert B. Parker fans will notice the similarity between The Green Ripper and Parker’s A Catskill Eagle (1985), in which Spenser embarks on his own blood-soaked, vengeance-fueled journey. But Ripper is darker, more focused on the releasing of the hero’s inner demon. Without the near-idyllic romance between Trav and Gretel, portrayed in The Empty Copper Sea, this personal transformation might not work, but in the context of the earlier book, it strikes a profound chord in anyone who has lusted to take a pound of flesh from an unforgiving world. Beyond the personal Götterdämmerung, the novel proves remarkably prescient about the coming of an age of idealism-driven terrorism. Speaking through his economist-philosopher Meyer (and more than 30 years before 9/11), MacDonald prophetically describes the contemporary terrorist mind-set, recognizing that one man—even one as determined as Travis—can’t stop the tide of history. At the end of the novel, McGee is carrying psychic wounds deeper than ever before. Stay tuned for the series’ three concluding novels to see if those wounds heal. --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 (Book 18)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812984099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812984095
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #229,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Billy J. Hobbs VINE VOICE on June 20, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee seems timeless. This "knight in tarnished armor," as Time magazine called him, is as pertinent today as when "The Green Ripper" was published in 1979.
Travis, once again, is confronted with his own mortality when Gretel, the woman he feels he is truly in love with, is murdered. McGee, as in episodes past (and this is the18th) feels that retribution, or justice, whichever comes first, is something that he, personally, must pursue. The "game is afoot," as it were, and the chase leads us through the forces of a religious cult (quite the topic in 1979), the Church of the Apocrypha. Travis "joins" to gain their confidence and little does he know the far-reaching ramifications of this group. The author cites George Santayana in a preface statement: "Fanaticism is described as redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim." And when you have finished "The Green Ripper," fanaticism is spelled with a capital "F"!
Probably, "The Green Ripper" is the most suspenseful of the McGee series (always characterized by a color in the title). MacDonald is methodical in his plot developments and while suspense is naturally a necessary ingredient, in this book it becomes perhaps the most important aspect. But the author stays true to McGee, probably Florida's most famous literary character, and readers will not be disappointed. As in the other books, vivid description, poignant characterization, and a top-drawer storyline, marked by sparks of good humor, are MacDonald's trademark. It's a worthy read!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a book of vengeance and revenge. Travis has finally found true love, and she is snatched from him by death. At first it appears to be a lethal illness, then horrifyingly a random sophisticated killing. Trav is almost mad with a desire to find one face to batter and then to execute the killer. To face the fact that the murder appears to be an organizational hit with no single one-of-a-kind killer seems obscenely unfair. Travis follows some paper-thin leads, discards his identity, and infiltrates a terrorist camp sponsored by a cult religious group.
This is a fast paced book, one of my all-time favorite McGees. I was struck by MacDonald's uncanny accuracy in depicting the terrorist personality way back in 1979. The healthy young American soldiers in superb shape confidently believed their next lives would be vastly improved by destroying the civilization in this one. They disdained, even looked forward to death. One character tells McGee that the terrorists will not "waste" their rockets on military vessels. Blowing up a planeload of civilians containing women and children was far more "productive."
The finale is a fine display of McGee's sniperly abilities, derring-do and just plain luck. (Rambo has nothing on him!) The only thing that dated "The Green Ripper" was McGee's reluctance to treat the female terrorists as anything but "ladies" no matter how fearsome they were. Today no such chivalry (even if misguided) would be allowed.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Travis McGee is one of those characters that is just so charismatic and irresistible. And while I still find "Flash of Green" to be my favorite John D. MacDonald book, there's something so appealing about the Travis McGee series that it keeps me coming back to them. "Green Ripper" is just another addition to the spectrum of colors that his great novels get their titles from. Also "Green Ripper" has such a gripping opening sequence of events, and such an array of fascinating characters, that you cannot put this mystery down. And while I found some of the middle sections unusually plodding (for MacDonald), this still ranks as one of the best.

As always, I must add:

I know that MacDonald enjoyed popularity in his time, but it seems that his popularity is running out of gas. I hope I am wrong because he is horribly overlooked.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am a huge fan of John MacDonald, and of the Travis McGee series in particular. So giving this book a bad rating is actually kind of painful to me. But I really didn't like this book, and -- given my general bias in favor of all things MacDonald -- I think it important to state my reasons. If you're already a MacDonald / McGee fan, then by all means read this book. But know what you're getting into. And if you're just coming to the McGee series, please start with one of the others. "The Deep Blue Goodbye" was the first in the series, and is a fine place to start. But almost any of the other books will do. I started with "A Tan & Sandy Silence," a heartbreaking book that is also a magnificent piece of writing; you'd do worse than begin with that one.

Since I would cheerfully give 5 stars to every other book in the Travis McGee series, it may seem strange that I down-rate this one so dramatically. It's especially odd since this book garnered more critical praise than almost any other in the series (including major national awards).

My problem is, simply, that this book just seems flat-out alien, an intruder into the Travis McGee series that just doesn't belong here. The first 20-25% of the book, to be sure, DOES seem like vintage McGee. But then it veers wildly away, onto an arc of a story that takes him far, far from his Florida stomping grounds, far, far from the moral underpinnings of the series, and far, far from the mystery genre that is his usual haunt. It seems to owe more to Rambo than to McGee.

The story in a nutshell: McGee has finally found love. Many times in prior books, MacDonald has McGee claiming that he isn't into the "Hugh Hefner thing," while nonetheless having him bed 2-4 beauties in every novel.
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