Reviewed by Mark D. Nevins:

JOHN D. MacDONALD – The Dreadful Lemon Sky. Lippincott, hardcover, 1974. Fawcett Gold Medal Q3285, paperback, 1975. Reprinted many times, in both hardcover and soft.

   Continuing my reading of the Travis McGee series in order, and at this point rationing them because I like them so much, but there are so few left.

   The Dreadful Lemon Sky is a solid entry in the series — not one of the best, but very good. By now it seems that MacDonald has basically ditched the whole quasi-PI/“salvage expert” formula: one of McGee’s old girlfriends visits the Busted Flush and asks him to hold a hundred grand in cash for her, and in the event that she never comes back, get it to her younger sister.

   She never does come back, and moral Trav sees fit to get to the bottom of the mystery, which is a clever one, knotted up as McGee tales often are in petty local politics and petty characters, both politics and characters fleshed out with an uncommon level of attention and realism for a thriller novel.

   There are a few surprises here [SPOILER ALERT] including Trav’s houseboat The Busted Flush getting blown to smithereens (don’t worry, it gets fixed up), and as always MacDonald shows off some really nice writing, such as:

   The world looked strange. There were little halos around the edges of every tree and building. I did very deep breathing. It is strange to sleep for five days and five nights and have the world go rolling along without you. Just like it will keep on after you’re dead. The wide busy world of tire balancing, diaper changing, window washing, barn dancing, bike racing, nose picking, and bug swatting will go merrily merrily along. If they were never aware of your presence, they won’t be overwhelmed by your absence.