this is the 82nd in my series of forgotten books
The Quick Red Fox by John D. MacDonald, © 1964, Fawcett Gold Medal, 9th printing 1987 paperback, mystery – Travis McGee series, #6
I first read this in 1989. Shortly before then, I’d only read two of the books, out of order, and had then decided to go back and read all the McGee books in order. I decided to read them in pairs, and this was paired with the next in the series, Darker Than Amber. At the time I gave this a “very good”. I was right.
For this Friday Forgotten Books single-author read on April 13th, I picked this because I recently decided to go back and re-read the series and this is about where I’d left off. I did skip one, because I’d remembered that I liked this a lot. After I started reading, I realized it isn’t the book I remembered (and still don’t know which one that was) but I was pulled in, and no one can pull you into a novel quite like MacDonald. He had me in the first two paragraphs, and it’s like dropping in to see an old friend.
McGee is on his houseboat The Busted Flush and listening to a symphony on his new Acoustic Research AR-3 speakers, (which were introduced in 1958) when the bell on the gangplank bonged. In came a client and the story is off and running.
The client is Dana Holtzer, who works for a movie actress Lysa Dean. Ms. Dean has gotten herself into a very compromising position, photographs were taken, and now she’s being blackmailed. She offers a flat fifty thousand fee for McGee to stop the blackmail and recover the photos. Not surprisingly, it’s easier said than done. McGee says at one point it’s not the kind of case he would normally accept, but for two things. One, the bank account is getting a little low, and he was going to have to look for another job soon enough anyway. Two, he is intrigued by Dana Holtzer, and wants to know more about her and her situation. So he takes the job and starts trying to follow the year-and-a-half old trail. It leads first to Big Sur, where the “party” took place, then, one by one, in search of the other participants, most of them sad and broken people, two already dead or as good as.
Dean has assigned Holtzer to work with McGee, something he’s not used to, but her efficiency as a planner and organizer simplifies making any arrangements necessary such as plane tickets, hotel accommodations, and so forth. Soon he’s relying on her ideas and opinions as he interviews people and tries to sort out the other victims from the blackmailer.
MacDonald let me along smoothly and it wasn’t too long until I had a pretty good guess who the blackmailer was. I was wrong, but there was another strong candidate, but I was wrong again, though it looked like I was right until the last 20 pages or so.
What really got me with this one was the ending. All I’ll say is that I didn’t expect it, and it will haunt me for a while, probably until I read another McGee, which I’ll do soon.
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links to all of this weeks Forgotten Book posts can be found
on Patti Abbott’s blog, Pattinase