Mark's Reviews > The Scarlet Ruse

The Scarlet Ruse by John D. MacDonald
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Jun 17, 12

bookshelves: crime-and-mystery
Read in April, 2012

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 also sees JDM taking his turn at the classic "locked room" theme. And it features a fascinating female lead like none we've seen before in the series. And some nifty (and in the climax unsettling) movement about on Trav's two boats. Why the luke-warm review? The whole is somehow less than the sum of the parts in THE SCARLET RUSE, and the story doesn't have the relentless drive a Travis McGee novel usually does. One chapter even feels like "bullet point" format--maybe JDM himself somehow wasn't so engaged by this installment of the series? I'm looking forward to the next one, however, and, meantime, to be clear, even an average McGee novel is a hell of a read. But I wouldn't say SCARLET is one of the best.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Kurt (new)

Kurt Reichenbaugh Agree with you on this one, but I did like how MacDonald turned Mary Alice from a hot babe into a harping bitch. Good character writing.


Mark Absolutely--the Mary Alice character was something entirely new.


Harv Griffin Hey, Mark!

Concur that, in your words: "even an average McGee novel is a hell of a read." Travis McGee easily makes my Top Ten List of Best All-Time Literary Characters. SCARLET is one of my favorite McGee novels, but maybe it's just because the defects in my ego were nicely massaged by the way John D. wrote the story. @hg47


Mark Thanks for the good words! Which one is your favorite? (No spoilers on the later ones, please!)


Harv Griffin Hey, Mark!

THE LONG LAVENDER LOOK is my personal fave. My second favorite is NIGHTMARE IN PINK: I really loved the way Travis broke out of the Insane Asylum (or whatever the current politically correct term is for "Funny Farm." Ashamed to admit that John D.'s non-McGee novels don't work for me. I tried a bunch of them but always abandoned them. Even THE GIRL, THE GOLD WATCH, AND EVERYTHING didn't work for me until the protagonist pushed the button on the pocket watch—but then THE GIRL was awesome till the end. I suspect which novels we like can be traced to what happened to us when we were four years old, or some such Freudian nonsense; I like those Travis McGee novels the best because reading them pushes all my buttons. Happy New Year! @hg47


Mark Oddly, NIGHTMARE IN PINK is my least favorite so far, by far; those contemporary understandins of drugs and psychology have aged poorly. You really need to give another try to the stand-alones--some are fantastic. Try APRIL EVIL, A BULLET FOR CINDERELLA, or THE BRASS CUPCAKE. I just read A KEY TO THE SUITE and it was remarkable.


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