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The Dreadful Lemon Sky (Travis McGee #16)

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  2,038 ratings  ·  63 reviews
"The professional's professional of suspense writers."


Travis McGee has been offered easy money by a longtime lady friend. But when she gets killed, McGee's got a boatload of mystery. Navigating his boat into troubled waters, he heads for the seamier side of Florida--where drug dealing, twisted sex, and corruption are easy to find--but murderous riddles ar
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 20th 1996 by Fawcett (first published September 1st 1973)
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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonAnd Then There Were None by Agatha ChristieAngels & Demons by Dan BrownRebecca by Daphne du MaurierIn Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Best Crime & Mystery Books
183rd out of 4,468 books — 10,252 voters
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Florida Mystery/Thrillers
32nd out of 117 books — 57 voters

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Community Reviews

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I know it’s the old Sea Cock Travis McGee we’re talking about here, but this is a whole new low….

Hang on. We all know that I’m going to do another rant about the sexism, but let’s change things up and talk about the good parts first.

Carrie Milligan is an old friend of McGee’s who shows up very late one night at his houseboat and asks if he’ll hold a large sum of money for her. If she doesn’t come back and get it by a certain date, Travis should hand the cash over to her sister, and he ge
McDonald was one of the best. His Ft. Lauderdale is essentially gone, now, but in his day, (and a good bit of mine), it was a fascinating place and the livaboard community around Ft. Lauderdale Beach and the Las Olas area lent a unique and irreplaceable aura to a fascinating era. I speak from experience, having lived aboard a 38 foot sloop for about two years in a slip on Hendricks Isle. It's a rotten shame those days are gone forever, and the livaboard community with them.
When I first read "The Dreadful Lemon Sky," I appreciated it as a well-written but ultimately depressing crime novel. On re-reading the book years later, I now realize that John D. MacDonald was up to more than writing a time-capsule story about Florida in the early Seventies. While the book mentions such artifacts as an orange Datsun, a yellow Gremlin, plaid pants, and "quadraphonic sound," it's ultimately (and to its credit) a story about human connections.

More specifically, "The Dreadful Lem
Mary L.
One of many John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee novels. They are a collection of exciting adventures taking place in South Florida. I have always thought that MacDonald was the Gary Grant of fast paced mystery books. He makes it look so easy but every one knows that there is a special art to writing that moves so smoothly across the page. If you want fun as well as some homespun philosphy, take a Travis McGee to the beach or any other vacation spot. You will not regret it.
I don’t think John D. wrote any absolutely BAD novels, but this 16th Travis McGee title is at least sub-standard for the series. McGee’s motivation for this job isn’t convincing from the start: a nagging conscience over a long-ago one-night-stand, Carrie Milligan, who might have been on the run when she popped up at the “Busted Flush” to leave bricks of cash in his safekeeping. Poor Carrie turns up suspiciously dead in a minor rural town, thus launching McGee & Meyer into full investigative ...more
Aug 01, 2011 Andrea added it
I'd been taking a break from Travis McGee, but I was missing him, so I pulled the next installment out of the box next to my nightstand.

I don't know if I've read too many TMcG books in too short a period of time, or if the author started relying too heavily on a formula when writing the books, but I'm not enjoying them the way I did at first.

Still, the dialogue, particularly between Travis and Meyer, is brilliant and hilarious. I laughed out loud several times. This bit got to me...

"You are ru
The adventures of Travis McGee are always a delightful treat, and John D. MacDonald is a master at creating and delivering a convoluted, yet compelling story-line with very believable, three dimensional characters. This novel was released in 1975, and is the sixteenth in the Travis McGee Series.

An old friend of Travis's turns up on his houseboat, The Busted Flush, late one night with a suitcase full of money. She won't tell him exactly how she acquired the cash, but, in the event of her death, s
Harv Griffin
Jan 11, 2013 Harv Griffin rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: novelists who want to up their game
Shelves: own, reviewed
pic of my copy of LEMON SKY

Travis McGee novels get better for me on the re-read years later. Rarely my first choice for a quick easy first read of escape, the John D. MacDonald McGee novels are the survivors, the keepers, the books that don’t get thrown out when I move and go through my library getting rid of the books I know I have no use for anymore.

The basics of the plot here are standard McGee: one of Trav’s old Friends-with-Benefits playmates leaves a big gob of cash with him to hold for her secretly. She leaves. She
My first Travis McGee novel. I'm forty-four years old and I'm just now getting around to reading the McGee books. Well anyway there isn't a whole lot to say. McGee is a "salvage expert". He gets hired to find things that people have lost - so to speak. He lives on a houseboat called "The Busted Flush" and his best friend is Meyer who helps him on his salvage jobs.

The writing is strong on details, characters and Mr. McGee's observations and philosophical musings.

In this story Mr. McGee is looki
Remington Rand
The entire Travis McGee series is coming in e-book format in Jan. 2013. The series, written mostly across the 1970s, inspired countless writers, including Dean Koontz, Carl Hiaason, Lee Child, Sue Grafton, and even Stephen King.

MacDonald's writing is damned impressive. Your enjoyment of this particular adventure depends on your appetite for 70s nostalgia. Hippies on Florida beaches get sucked into a big operation smuggling marijuana; deaths ensue; and McGee and associated cops lament the involve
Sincere W.
As usual, McGee and Meyer did an excellent job of entertaining me as I chased sheep last night. MacDonald's insights into Life - as presented through the mouths of his characters - are riveting. I particularly enjoyed the the conversation between McGee and Meyer about "abstract death", somewhere around the fifth chapter.

I didn't like the McGee girl in this book, but that had more to do with her personality than her development. All of the other characters, major and minor, were well developed as
I was curious to see how well MacDonald held up, and remember this book from when it first appeared in 75. It turns out it holds up very well, and from what I can tell his portrait of Florida is both accurate and had good predictions in it. Though McGee and Meyer are very conservative, when reading one book they don't seem as creaky as they did back when I used to read every one as it came out. There are also passages in here that are nicely evocative, such as one where McGee is trying to fall a ...more
THE DREADFUL LEMON SKY. (1974). John D. MacDonald. ****.
Here’s another well plotted and cleverly characterized situation for Travis McGee to sink his teeth into. An old girlfriend from his past, Carol Milligan, shows up at his houseboat in the wee hours of the morning. She was not ever a serious flame for McGee, but represented some strong chemistry with him over a short time frame. She needs his help in hiding some money – lots of money. She offers McGee a nice cut - $20,000 – if he would be wi
Cynthia Thomason
Picked this up in a used bookstore. It was written in the '70s, book number 16 in John D MacDonald's Travis McGee series. I've read one other McGee book and enjoyed it. This one was great also. I miss Robert B. Parker and might start stocking up on this older MacDonald books. The slueths are somewhat similar. It's nice to read a mystery where you don't have to keep up with modern technology all the time. It didn't exist in the '70s. Just fun.
I think I have read all of the Travis McGee books a long time ago but I can't remember anything specific. So I am not going to add them all to my list. Just suffice it to say they are all good mysteries, quick reads, and worth checking out if you need an escape.
I started reading MacDonald's Travis McGee books when I was a young teacher in NC. I found a small stack at a yardsale and enjoyed the writing very much. I enjoyed this outing with Meyer and McGee, but not as much as I used to. Who changed? Probably me.
Stephen Campbell
This was the first of the Travis McGee books that I read. I loved it, read the rest of the series and moved to Florida.
Paul O'Grady
The Travis McGee series was recommended to me by a friend who shared my love for the Nero Wolfe mysteries. I think it is in that context that I was disappointed. Somehow MacDonald's Travis McGee takes himself much more seriously than Archie Goodwin who attacks life with whimsy and his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. Travis McGee on the other hand, has other uses for his tongue as each story has him seducing various women. All of that being said, I really enjoyed this installment of the serie ...more
Aug 31, 2013 Mark added it
Continuing my reading of the Travis McGee series in order, and at this point rationing them because I like them so much, but there are so few left.

DREADFUL LEMON SKY is a solid entry in the series--not one of the best, but very good. By now it seems that MacDonald has basically ditched the whole quasi-PI/"salvage expert" formula: one of McGee's old girlfriends visits the Busted Flush and asks him to hold a hundred grand in cash for her, and in the event that she never comes back, get it to her
For years John D. MacDonald has merely been the guy I skip past in used bookstores to get to Ross Macdonald, but a recent article by Andy Greenwald on Grantland included a footnote lauding the Travis McGee series so I picked up this book (in a much older format) at the local used bookstore and dove in. MacDonald writes with unique verve and energy - I find his descriptions of everything, even streets and neighborhoods, engaging. His character Travis McGee is certainly unique too - he is not a tr ...more
Text Addict
Every now and then I read a John D. MacDonald book and am surprised all over again that they were best-sellers ... largely because bestsellers these days, compared with MacDonald's prose, seem to be mostly written by semi-literate monkeys.

Okay, maybe that's a bit strong. But. How many bestsellers these days will stop for a long bit of philosophical introspection? Especially, how many novels that are nominally about tough guys dealing in and with violence? Okay, Parker's Spenser novels - a series
Feb 17, 2014 Sara rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sara by: found it at the gym
I read LOTS of Travis McGee books when I lived in Florida and hadn't read one in a long time. Nostalgia...
MacDonald is a precursor of Carl Hiaasen in the sense that his McGee is rooted in the subculture that hates tourism, development, and the attendant degeneration of the beauty of the state which these have brought. His characters are somewhat this side of weird and his heroes more Hemingway-esque than Hemingway. Really fun books if you just want a casual read.
Phillip Frey
This book was loaned to me by a friend. I had never read a John D. MacDonald book before. Not as hard-boiled as I like, but a fun read. Travis McGee's sidekick, Meyer, is a treat. Travis McGee is given a batch of money to hold for an ex-lover. She soon ends up dead. He knows the money he holds must be connected to her murder. He tries to find out where the money came from, and at the same time tries to find her killer by seeking out the people she knew.
This series was full of action, and to many puzzling crime was yet to be solve by McGee. Susan Dobrovsky arrived in town, and asked Travis to hide a hundred grand for her. McGee, agreed for the old time friendship. Susie give an instruction that if something happen to her send the money to her only sister, and ten thousand dollars for him for doing the favor.

A few days later Susan died in an accident, and McGee thinks something rotten was going on. With a hundred grand in his hands he must know
Not really worthy of three stars but certainly not two. I loved all his Travis McGee books so I guess this was a little nostalgic.
Great title, awful book. Never again. Never again will I read anything by this writer, or by any writer who recommends him. Life is too short.
I call these the color books because all the Travis McGee novels have some sort of color in them--Cinnamon Skin, The Deep Blue Good-by, etc. I read somewhere a long time ago that Stephen King liked these books as a kid, so I decided to check them out myself. They're good in terms of generic detective novels, but you have to keep in mind that they take place back in the 60's/70's. Things that take us a split second now were a lot of work back then. Sometimes, it's funny when you end up thinking a ...more
Micheal Segroves
Travis McGee. What more needs to be said?
David Ward
The Dreadful Lemon Sky (Travis McGee #16)by John D. MacDonald (J.P. Lippincott 1974)(Fiction-Mystery). These are wonderfully written mysteries, light as a feather, disposable as a tissue, and a s dated as a rotary telephone. An old girlfriend appears and gives Travis $94,000 to hold plus a ten percent commission. When she is murdered, Travis investigates and finds marijuana smuggling and the swinging subculture. This is great fun! My rating: 7/10, finished 1986. ...more
Nancy Moore
I've read all of this series and loved every one. I read them in order - I always read a series in order, in fact, I'm compulsive about it - because I like to follow the character's life and the author's writing as they both grow. Mr. MacDonald never disappointed - each one is a great thrill ride and they got better each time. Read my review on "The Deep Blue Good-by" to meet Travis, and get ready for some great reading!
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John D. MacDonald was born in Sharon, Pa, and educated at the Universities of Pennsylvania, Syracuse and Harvard, where he took an MBA in 1939. During WW2, he rose to the rank of Colonel, and while serving in the Army and in the Far East, sent a short story to his wife for sale, successfully. After the war, he decided to try writing for a year, to see if he could make a living. Over 500 short stor ...more
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