A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A dark shade of pink

With a strong, moody debut novel (The Deep Blue Good-By) and this bang-up follow-up, it's sure been easy to finally slip into John D. MacDonald's classic Travis McGee series.

The fast, taut Nightmare in Pink is set in New York City and its environs and concerns white collar crooks scamming millions from unsuspecting investors. I expected a decent story, and more than got that, but what I didn't expect was a scary one. I mean, horror-novel scary. And I got a kick out of being caught unaware like that.

You see, the crooks here have a very special way of lulling their marks into submission, and, just as chilling, of getting the curious and other threats to their scam out of the way. I won't get too specific, but let's just say these methods involve shady physicians, unsupervised mental health facilities, and certain controversial (even in the early 60's, when this story is set) cranial operations involving long, thin, shiny implements. And, yes, our man McGee gets into quite a spot involving these factors. Will his sharp mind survive the book intact?

In addition to the chills and suspense, other satisfying elements include a nicely drawn friendship between McGee and an old war buddy, an eventual romance with the war buddy's daughter (which gallant McGee tries to resist at first), and McGee's usual, and still fascinating, mental pronouncements about this or that aspect of American life. It helps that McGee's opinions about things still resonate and make us nod in agreement more than forty years after MacDonald wrote them.

It's been said that this series didn't really start to pick up steam until about the fifth or sixth book. If that's the case, those upcoming books must really be good, because Nightmare in Pink and the entry before it are both fine, satisfying reading experiences, laced with thrills, emotion, intelligence, and surprises.

The Travis McGee novels still aren't available as e-books, though that is bound to change soon.  For now, you can enjoy (as I've been) the beautifully produced new audiobook versions of every book in the series, now available at Amazon's Audible website.  Amazon also offers new paperback editions of the books.

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