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The Scarlet Ruse (Travis McGee #14)

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  1,890 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
Travis McGee is too busy with his houseboat to pay attention to the little old man with the missing postage stamps. Except these are no ordinary stamps. They are rare stamps. Four hundred thousand dollars worth of rare. And if McGee doesn't recognize their value, perhaps Mary Alice McDermit does, a six-foot knockout who knows all the ways to a boat bum's heart. Only it's n ...more
Paperback, 335 pages
Published March 9th 1996 by Fawcett Books (first published July 1st 1972)
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Azeem You begin with 'The Deep Blue Goodbye' and end with 'The Lonely Silver Rain'. And be ready to get addicted... once you start, there is no way to stop…moreYou begin with 'The Deep Blue Goodbye' and end with 'The Lonely Silver Rain'. And be ready to get addicted... once you start, there is no way to stop till you reach the end and then be ready to feel withdrawal symptoms that might be mild-to-severe. The only cure is to start again from the beginning.(less)

Community Reviews

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Thanks to this one and Lawrence Block’s Keller series, I know more about philately then I ever thought I would.

Travis McGee is coming off of one of his periodic retirements and looking for a new salvage gig in which he’ll try to recover items that people were scammed out of for half their value. His client this time is a stamp dealer named Hirsh who puts together collections for people looking to use them as investments. Hirsh had been working with Frank Sprenger who is well-connected to the kin
May 13, 2016 Lyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Travis McGee is a salvage expert. Here’s how it works in his words:

“I try to recover items of value which have been lost and which cannot be found by any other means. If I decide to help you, I will risk my time and expenses. If I make a recovery of all or part of what you have lost, we take my expenses off the top and split the remainder down the middle.”

His friend and houseboat neighbor Meyer is a doctor of economics and had the renaissance curiosity of Freakonomics 30 years before Freakonmics
JoAnna Spring
Sep 19, 2009 JoAnna Spring rated it really liked it
Shelves: travis-mcgee, fiction
Engaging, fun summer read. Meyer (the hairy economist philosopher) has an old friend (that is, the friend is an old man) who manages fancy stamp collections. An big book of expensive rare stamps being managed for a mob guy has been mysteriously replaced with a big book of worthless stamps. Trav takes the case, hooks up with an interesting chick, and figures it all out.

It was written in '73 and I am sad at how far it seems we haven't come:

"Meyer made one of his surveys of the elderly couple in t
Jun 17, 2012 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the Travis McGee series (I am reading them in order, slowly, and savoring them as I'm all too aware how finite the series is) but this one felt a little flat to me. I'm not sure why--especially because the few prior were really superb. (Or maybe because of that?) THE SCARLET RUSE offers, as many of the books do, insights into a slightly arcane subject matter area: where we've prior learned about, say, real estate financing, this time it's the world of very rare stamp investing. The novel ...more
Mar 28, 2010 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The busted Flush is threatened with eviction from Bahia Mar, but it turn out to be a ruse (heh, heh).

The story revolves around mobsters, stamp collecting and investments. In the middle of the book, there is the standard line of live-and-let-live philosophy. But McGee is starting to sound like Spicolli," Good waves and some tasty bud, dude."

The second half of the novel turns interesting with an atypical, snarling, sociopathic female, that plays McGee all to well. Of course, she has to die. This b
Sep 21, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE SCARLET RUSE. (1973). John D. MacDonald. ****.
As you probably know, Travis McGee is in the salvage business. If you lose something that you can’t otherwise get back, he will find it for you and take, as commission, 50% of the value of what he recovers. His friend Meyer came to him and let him know that a friend of his needed his help. Meyer’s friend was a stamp dealer who was working with a client on a collection of investment stamps. His client was probably a member of the syndicate who wan
Aug 01, 2011 Andrea added it
The book began very dramatically... the powers that be in Ft Lauderdale passed a resolution banning permanent habitation on boats. Oh, no! Meyer and Travis are going to be booted off their boats or will have to find a new place to dock. Given the huge role played by the ocean and the various boats in this series, this seemed like a *major* story line in the making. How were Travis and Meyer going to get out of this? What was going to happen to the Busted Flush? I was hooked!

Too bad the matter wa
Dec 07, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries
I loved this one ... I'm getting hooked on John D. MacDonald and Travis McGee, but this one seemed especially poignant to me. I loved the way Travis let himself get taken in by Mary Alice, written so brilliantly to capture him and sucker the one guy who is so hard to fool. I loved just how battered he was at the end of this one, how thoroughly he paid for letting himself get taken.
Jun 08, 2015 wally rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: macdonald
8 jun 15
#46 from macdonald for me, the 15th travis mcgee story. just finished One Fearful Yellow Eye, an excellent 5+ star story. i've noted in the last few stories that the "bad" guy isn't on the main stage much...but in the last...yes and no.

15 jun 15...i'm back. now i am reading this one, having completed A Tan and Sandy Silence

18 jun 15
finished. good story. i liked it. was not as impressed with this story's wind-up as i am impressed with some of the other macdonald stories. don't know why, b
Apr 27, 2014 Ms.pegasus rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the roots of mystery/thriller fiction
Shelves: mystery, fiction, thriller
Among Travis's small circle of friends is Meyer, a brilliant economist who, like Travis, lives on the water. His modest floating domain is appropriately named “The John Maynard Keynes.” Meyer exudes a rabbinical wisdom, passionate outrage over injustice and, being Travis's friend, he is not afraid to pull up his shirt sleeves and get a bit dirty. That same loyalty provokes him to seek Travis's help on behalf of an old friend, Hirsh Fedderman, an elderly philatelist and dealer. Fedderman purchase ...more
Feb 12, 2013 Mr rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poor T. McGee! After a six-month installment of his periodic retirement, he’s inexplicably in the doldrums, feeling joyless and anxious--and he’s getting low on funds. Also, a new city ordinance is threatening to break up the eccentric community of permanent boat dwellers in the Bahia Mar marina he calls home. However, helpful Meyer brings him a new salvage job, helping professional philatelist Hirsh Fedderman recover a valuable stamp collection that, almost impossibly, has been replaced by near ...more
It was scary good!
So, far this series is my fifth all time favorite of Travis McGee's mystery adventure. She was so cunning, and a sly as a fox to used men just to get her own end. Taking advantage a trusting old man Fedderman, and exploiting his collectibles/rare stamps that are worth four hundred thousand dollars.

Execute her friend Jane Lawson, and set up McGee and Sprenger to dispatch each other. Mary Alice McDermit, was the most hazardous syndicate killer, but Travis McGee knows a devious w
Mackenzie Brown
Dec 09, 2015 Mackenzie Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At the time of writing this book the author was at the height of his illustrious powers. In addition, he knew the characters so well that when a reader picked up a new McGee adventure he or she knew what to expect-quite simply the best of the genre.
In this book our hero helps a friend of Meyer wriggle out from certain ruin and clashes with a ruthless, mob connected fellow. Well written, fabulously plotted and filled to the brim with great insights about life. Could not be recommended more.
Mar 17, 2010 Seth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John D Macdonald is quickly becoming my favorite pulp mystery writer. Sure, he invites you in with some cheap sex bit. But at least he makes you wait till chapter 4 to learn who the dame is. Macdonald does this stuff right. So many other writers of this genre get totally lost in the imagery of the women.
Apr 10, 2007 Jerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Travis McGee is not god. But he is superhuman. This is not the best Travis McGee mystery I've read, which makes it merely awesome. Plus you learn about stamp collecting. Without giving too much away...I've already said too much. Read it!
Sep 13, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best in the series, as McGee gets involved with mobsters, stamp collectors and a tall, buxom Bad Girl who nearly gets him killed. And an elderly but formidable woman named Miss Moojah, whose skill with a toy baseball bat is the stuff of legend.
Dec 06, 2014 Shuriu rated it liked it
Very difficult for young people these days. Or any days. In what golden epoch was being a teenager a constant joy? There has always been a generation gap. It is called twenty years. Too much talk about unresponsive government, irrelevant education. Maybe the real point is that young lives have no accepted focal point. The tribe gives no responsibilities, no earned privileges, no ceremonial place. In the family unit they do not fit into a gap between generations, because the generations are diffu ...more
Neill Goltz
John D. MacDonald is long-dead, and his material about his signature character, private investigator Travis Magee, at first reaction must seem incredibly antique to contemporary readers born after 1970, who would only have been 16 when MacDonald died in 1986. No technology or phones to replace the grit of Philip Marlowe shoe-leather investigations.

But one doesn't read MacDonald for that. I have found that his signature device is a long internal essay (or two) in every book on a contemporary soci
Aug 18, 2015 Toni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who knew stamp collecting could be so deadly?

A shady character has decided to invest in stamps and the dealer handling the sale abruptly realizes the stamps he's purchased have been stolen and fakes substituted. Since this is set in the '70's, McGee is a veteran of a different war, I'm imagining the Korean Conflict, and is disenchanted enough to already be slightly on the outside of society looking in. The happenings in the story aren't dated, however, and can be transposed to our current societ
One of the oddest milieus--investing in rare stamps--for a Travis McGee book, but it also contains one of his best and most lyrical passages, an insightful glimpse at McGee's personality:

"...I am apart. Always I have seen around me all the games and parades of life and have always envied the players and the marchers. I watch the cards they play and feel in my belly the hollowness as the big drums go by, and I smile and shrug and say, Who needs games? Who wants parades? The world seems to be mass
Feb 18, 2017 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, owned
Harv Griffin
Dec 31, 2012 Harv Griffin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, own

This is one of the better McGee novels in my opinion. It's fun. It has lots of Meyer. It has rare stamps. It has a woman Travis McGee is actually going out of his way to impress. It is an actual salvage operation [they stole from you—I'll steal it back, but I keep half], in addition to a favor for Meyer. It has devious mobsters. It has John D. doing his underworld riff on the way the bad guys really operate. It has Meyer waxing philosophical and pessimistic about developing nations. Did I mentio
Aug 23, 2013 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my introduction to the Travis McGee mysteries, and I liked it well enough. McGee calls himself a salvage guy, which nicely sidesteps the need for murder on murder that some mysteries fall into, which I liked: theft is almost always more interesting, from a logistical point-of-view.

McGee has some friends, a little network of sorts, which I don't think I've seen enough of, either, and he has lots of semi-poetic, mostly anti-consumerist, pro-environment asides, which I liked, mostly. It mak
Feb 04, 2016 Rodger rated it really liked it
This is one of the best Travis McGee books in terms of the basic story development -- though the ending is kind of weak. Actually, the story is more than a little far-fetched from the beginning and the fact that Travis McGee fails to identify the criminal much sooner is quite revealing. In any case, this book's McGee is a bit more mature, though MacDonald's views are often sexist and homophobic. For the time (1973), McGee was the kind of man who might stand up to Archie Bunker. But times have ch ...more
Michael Fredette
John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee novels always make an enjoyable summer read. McGee is a boat bum (based in Ft. Lauderdale, on board a yacht called the Busted Flush, which he won in a poker game) and self-described salvage consultant. People who have lost valuable things make informal arrangements to have McGee find what they lost and he takes half the value of the recovered object. In 1973's The Scarlet Ruse, Travis is persuaded by his friend Meyer to look into the theft of a rare and valuable ...more
Julie Davis
Much better than the first of the Travis McGee books, The Deep Blue Good-bye, that I reread recently. However, not as great as I wanted it to be. Part of it is McGee's constant commentary on women, which I tire of. Just say it once or twice, ok, and then move on to something else. I. don't. care. about. your. personal. philosophy. on. women! (Even though it was "progressive" by private detective standards in 1970, I'm sure.) Boring.
Nancy Moore
Apr 09, 2011 Nancy Moore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Sep 13, 2007 Joseph rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I think this was the 20th book I've in the Travis McGee series, but it's the first one I didn't like that much. There were the usual profound nuggets of McGee wisdom and philosophy ("Today, my friends, we each have one day less, every one of us. And joy is the only thing that slows the clock.") But MacDonald belabors the intricacies of the plot and declaws the tension when McGee starts asking far too many "What if...?" questions.
Peggy Huey
This book was my first foray into John MacDonald's books. While it provided an interesting look at the world of stamp collecting, it wasn't the type of book that just drew me in and wouldn't let me leave the world of Travis McGee. I am still willing to give MacDonald a chance and will look for a book that is earlier in the series to get a better feel for the style that has made both MacDonald and McGee so beloved by their fans.
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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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“If you look over in that direction, like two hundred yards, you will see some birds walking. Never drive the boat toward where the birds are walking. First rule of navigation.” 1 likes
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