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The Dreadful Lemon Sky (Travis McGee #16)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  2,905 Ratings  ·  100 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
Mass Market Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 12th 1982 by Fawcett (first published September 1st 1974)
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Bobby Underwood I'd be hard-pressed to narrow down the five, which says a lot about the series, the quality of the stories, how some are complexly plotted, while…moreI'd be hard-pressed to narrow down the five, which says a lot about the series, the quality of the stories, how some are complexly plotted, while others have more of an emotional resonance. Cinnamon Skin, Free Fall in Crimson, Deadly Shade of Gold (the heftiest in the series), Bright Orange for the Shroud, and naming a fifth, I'd be leaving out one of the great books in the series, like this one, or Lonely Silver Rain (the last), or Long Lavender Look, or Darker Than Amber, I won't. You could ask ten different people who love the series, and know what they're talking about, and get ten different answers, and they'd all be right. That's just how enjoyable the series was. There are a couple here or there that aren't as good as the others, but even they're enjoyable to read. You might get a bit more enjoyment out of one than another, but you'll probably not regret any choice you make. :-) (less)
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Bobby Underwood
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“He captured the mood and the spirit of the times more accurately, more hauntingly, than any ‘literature’ writer — yet managed always to tell a thunderingly good, intensely suspenseful tale.” — Dean Koontz

“A writer way ahead of his time, his Travis McGee books are as entertaining, insightful, and suspenseful today as the moment I first read them. He is the all-time master of the American mystery novel.” — John Saul

John D. MacDonald, whose Travis McGee series became, as Robert B. Parker pointed o

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
John Culuris
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, top-shelf
The Travis McGee novels are most successful on a pure entertainment level 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-a ...more
In Junior High, in grade eight English, we did a large and in my nostalgic memory exceedingly interesting and engaging segment on American and British mystery fiction, reading both classical and not so classical instalments from the late 19th century to what was at that time considered contemporary American detective fiction (from such diverse authors as Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, John D. MacDonald and of course many many more). From the many authors we had to read (and the ...more
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Cynthia Thomason
Aug 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
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.
Varrick Nunez
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the audio version of a title I read in my teens when I had a phase of interest in John D. MacDonald and Donald Westlake mysteries. This is a terrific recording (Brilliance Audio) with prompts for the end of the disc, musical notification of the end of the disc, and each disc after disc 1 has about 30 seconds of the end of the previous disc to restart the story. Robert Petkoff is the voice performer, and he displays excellent vocal range portraying McGee and the rest of the characters, i ...more
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's always fun when reading John MacDonald's novels to see when and where he is going to incorporate the book's title into the story. This one came up unexpectedly. I'm not able to read the series chronologically....this is book 16. Oddly enough, this one doesn't make any references to people or places from past stories or experiences. It takes place in a different Florida location than his other stories that I have read. There were some twists and turns that kept it interesting. The writing, a ...more
Apr 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, owned
Henri Moreaux
Another excellent addition to the Travis McGee series. In The Dreadful Lemon Sky McGee is given a large amount of money by a seemingly desperate old acquaintance with instructions to pass it on to her sister should she be killed. Shortly thereafter she is and McGee takes on board the job of investigating her death.

It's on of the best plots so far of the series, multiple layers of scheming and motives.

Ending was good and wound up all the plot threads.
Feb 12, 2013 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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Remington Rand
Oct 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 22, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 18, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Terry Graap
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another exciting book in the Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald. A lady friend meets with McGee and gives him some money to give to her sister if she dies. She in fact dies and McGee finds out why and unveils a drug smuggling operation involving a well known attorney.
Mar 17, 2015 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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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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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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“Hascomb snatched an ancient weapon out of his glove compartment. Officers have smuggled them home from the last five wars. The Colt.45 automatic.” 2 likes
“The early bird who gets the worm works for somebody who comes in late and owns the worm farm.” 1 likes
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