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The Dreadful Lemon Sky (Travis McGee #16)

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  2,701 Ratings  ·  92 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 1974)
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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
Thomas Todd
This was my first reading of John MacDonald's work and please don't ask me why because I don't know. This book was published in 1974 and reads as a still current novel. I love the Travis McGee character. I now will need to start with this series from the beginning. Would highly recommend this book, series and author to others that enjoy Florida P.I. fiction.
May 14, 2012 Jetdrvr rated it really liked it
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.
John Culuris
May 15, 2016 John Culuris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, top-shelf
Travis McGee novels are most successful when there is a mystery to solve or a chain of events to uncover. Here there are both. McGee is awoken in the middle of the night by Carrie Milligan, an acquaintance of six years back, arriving with a shoe box under her arm stuffed with a little over $100,000. Assured that the money is rightfully hers and not stolen, McGee is asked to keep it safe for a month. Two weeks later Carrie dies as a victim of an unwitnessed hit-and-run. A couple of questions need ...more
Nov 23, 2010 Patrick rated it liked it
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.
Aug 12, 2012 Mary L. rated it liked it
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.
Apr 19, 2017 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, owned
Feb 12, 2013 Mr rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Harv Griffin
Jan 11, 2013 Harv Griffin rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: novelists who want to up their game
Shelves: reviewed, own
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
Feb 18, 2017 KATHLEEN rated it really liked it
I liked this one quite a bit. There were multiple victims, and multiple criminals. The woman McGee worked for and the woman he slept with were not wholly innocent folks. They were complicated people, and McGee figures their whole mess out at great harm to himself (as usual.)

Also, an introduction to fire ants, something we native Floridians can appreciate. Ouch!
Jul 24, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it
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
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
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
Jun 25, 2012 Ken rated it liked it
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
Remington Rand
Oct 30, 2012 Remington Rand rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 13, 2012 Sincere W. rated it liked it
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
Aug 22, 2008 Steve rated it liked it
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
Cynthia Thomason
Aug 27, 2011 Cynthia Thomason rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 18, 2011 Kim rated it liked it
Shelves: detective
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.
Mar 17, 2015 Lynette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Continue to love Travis McGee - this particular plot was a little less engaging than the previous entries I've read in this series, but I'll continue plowing through them - I think you can say I'm hooked...
May 31, 2008 Bonitagirl rated it really liked it
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.
Stephen Campbell
Nov 13, 2009 Stephen Campbell rated it it was amazing
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.
May 21, 2015 wally rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: macdonald
#36 from macdonald and the 4th travis mcgee story...out-of-sequence...have read the first three now this one. started yesterday,
20 may 15. finished yesterday A Purple Place for Dying

travis's friend from florida, meyer, has a curious role in this story. a tad more than holmes's watson, but that's the drift. writing this after eight chapters read. in the previous story noted above meyer is nothing more than a mention. macdonald also uses another tool used in the previous and to more or less the sa
Mar 13, 2017 J.C. rated it liked it
Very much a book of the 1970s in attitude and style.  The book is #87 on the Mystery Writers of America’s 100 Top Mysteries list.  My first foray into the series; I found McGee likable and loved Meyer.
Aug 13, 2014 Shuriu rated it liked it
The six years had aged her more than she could reasonably expect and had tested and toughened her. Her eyes were watchful, her merriment sardonic. There are too many of them in the world lately, the hopeful ladies who married grown-up boy children and soon lost all hope. They are the secretaries and nurses and switchboard people, the store clerks, schoolteachers, cab drivers, and Avon ladies. They lead the singles life. Lots of laughs and lots of barren mornings. Skilled sex, mod conversation, a ...more
Aug 18, 2015 Toni rated it it was amazing
A friend of Travis McGee appears in the middle of the night, asking him to keep a package for her and if she doesn't return for it, to make certain her sister gets it. The package contains a sum of money, a portion of which McGee is given for this favor. A short time later, the friend dies in an auto accident. McGee goes to the funeral intending to carry out his promise, asks the wrong questions and becomes convinced the friend was murdered.

Thus he and we, the readers, are catapulted into a tal
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
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
Mar 28, 2015 D S rated it liked it
I haven't read a lot of MacDonald, but I acknowledge that he is considered one of the masters of the genre. This Travis McGee adventure was about the same as the others I've read. The story is somewhat engaging, but don't expect a shocking or even memorable ending. McGee's partner Meyer floats in and out of the story and I never got a good feel for who he was except for a really smart guy who was willing to do McGee's grunt work. He always found the answers McGee needed, but it was never explain ...more
Paul O'Grady
Jan 18, 2013 Paul O'Grady rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
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
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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
More about John D. MacDonald...

Other Books in the Series

Travis McGee (1 - 10 of 21 books)
  • The Deep Blue Good-By (Travis McGee #1)
  • Nightmare in Pink (Travis McGee, #2)
  • A Purple Place for Dying (Travis McGee #3)
  • The Quick Red Fox (Travis McGee #4)
  • A Deadly Shade of Gold (Travis McGee #5)
  • Bright Orange for the Shroud (Travis McGee #6)
  • Darker Than Amber (Travis McGee #7)
  • One Fearful Yellow Eye (Travis McGee #8)
  • Pale Gray for Guilt (Travis McGee #9)
  • The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper (Travis McGee #10)

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