Audrey's Reviews > A Deadly Shade of Gold

A Deadly Shade of Gold by John D. MacDonald
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's review
Apr 06, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: noir, florida

Ninety-nine percent of the things that ninety-nine percent of the people do are entirely predictable, when you have a few lead facts. Drunks, maniacs and pregnant women are the customary exceptions.

Synopsis: Unlicensed Florida investigator and houseboat-resident Travis McGee sets out to avenge the death of an old friend, winds up in Mexico and then L.A. and uncovers at least three plots too many, two of which involve Cuba and one of which involves a dead dog.

Travis McGee is watching his best friend assemble a platter of pretty young women aboard McGee's houseboat, The Busted Flush, when he gets one of Those Kind of phone calls: his old friend Sam, who disappeared three years ago, is calling from a payphone in Georgia, on the run and in need of McGee's help. McGee offers it, of course, and when Sam arrives in town, it's quickly clear what the problem is: the solid gold, pre-Columbian statue Sam stole from his last employer. Who, it turns out, was a Cuban ex-nabob in hiding.

Then again, Sam was never reknowned for his decisionmaking skills. He disappeared the night after his then-fiancee Nora caught him in bed with her shop assistant. But this particular lapse in judgment results in Sam being chopped to pieces all over his motel room, just in time for Nora and McGee to find him.

They swear revenge! They trace Sam's movements back to Mexico! They pose as lovers at a resort! They quickly get sucked into intrigue! And of course, McGee comforts the grieving Nora by throwing her feet over her head and having at it. Which totally makes her feel better, until McGee gets drunk and makes the local cantina hooker happy too.

Now, I have to say, I really liked 3/4 of this book, including all the Mexico bits, the comforting and the avenging. However, after Sam is avenged, there's 150 pages of nonsense where McGee decides he'll steal the rest of the statues Sam was in the process of stealing, treks out to L.A., bones two other women (he's a man who knows his strengths) and dedicates himself to taking down a bizarre Hollywood blackmailer and pervert who isn't even introduced until 300 pages into the book.

I stayed up til 3a.m. reading the first 300 pages (all man, all Mexico) and then struggled the next morning to finish the Hollywood-blackmailer plot. I do not understand why it was tacked on to the end there, except it does provide McGee with a nice offering to lay at the feet of the one woman he meets in the story who doesn't sleep with him. So I guess that's something.

And why am I so calm about the dog thing? Here's why:

The dog gets one line of screen time. He's a silent, deadly Doberman rushing at McGee's face, and McGee knows it's him or the dog. Exit the dog. BUT. McGee then spends the rest of the book mourning the dog. Nora mourns the dog. The psychopathic assassin who McGee's chasing mourns the dog. That's one well-mourned dog for one line of screen time. It's done in a very Nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw way, and not at all gratuitously, comically or lingeringly.

So I'll keep working my way through the series.
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