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The Scarlet Ruse Mass Market Paperback – March 9, 1996
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*Starred Review* Number 14 in the Travis McGee series starts slowly—unless philately is your thing—but quickly picks up the pace, leading to a vintage MacDonald climax that evokes the classic Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck film Cape Fear. McGee is reluctant to get involved in an aging stamp dealer’s problems—inexplicably, a client’s $400,000 stamp collection has been switched with one containing far less valuable material—but the dealer is an old friend of Trav’s pal Meyer, and, in the end, Meyer usually gets what he wants. It doesn’t hurt that one of the dealer’s assistants is Mary Alice McDermit, a six-footer nearly as fit as the legendarily flat-bellied McGee. As Meyer cogitates over how the locked-room switch could have been engineered, McGee noses around the client, one Frank Sprenger, who turns out to be a money launderer for the Miami Mob. Series fans will immediately see that Sprenger does more than the laundry—the cut of this guy’s jib (and the width of his shoulders) clearly indicates that Travis has found his adversary. No one is quite what they seem this time around—Mary Alice and Sprenger, especially—and it takes Trav quite a while to put the pieces together. Cut to the Busted Flush, run amok deep in the mangroves, as Trav lays in wait for a predawn visit from Sprenger, on his way, like Mitchum in Cape Fear, to settle scores once and for all. MacDonald writes terrific climaxes—it’s always McGee versus the sociopaths, often with a new wrinkle or two (this time the sociopath is holding Meyer hostage), but as good as the climaxes are, the denouements are almost their equal, delivering postmortem details on the conflagration and showing off Trav’s scars. This time the wounds cut deep, into both Meyer and Trav, but, whereas the former shows that he can play in the hard guys’ league, the latter proves that his rawhide body isn’t quite as vulnerable as we assumed (“I felt as if I was made of cornflakes, stale rubber bands, and old gnawed bones”). This is A-list McGee—and not just because it may be the only time in the series when MacDonald describes his hero in terms that could apply to my own cornflake-brittle frame. --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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He completely changed the notion of what could be done within that genre, and for me, anyway, moved crime fiction into the realm of literature. Add big dashes of social commentary and astute character analysis served up by an acerbic wit tempered with humanity and you have a very good read indeed. Think Jonathan Swift meets Raymond Chandler with cool jazz playing in the background.
Needless to say, I loved it.
Most recent customer reviews
Travis is at his best in this well woven story of intrigue and subterfuge.