JOHN D. MacDONALD – Cinnamon Skin. Harper & Row, hardcover, 1982. Fawcett, paperback, 1983. Reprinted many times since.

   As anyone who has read Free Fall in Crimson could have easily predicted, it is Travis McGee’s closest friend, Meyer, who is in dire need of rehabilitation at the beginning of Cinnamon Skin, the twentieth and latest in this best-selling series. McGee lives in a world of constant tragedy, and unfortunately that’s what it takes to snap Meyer out of his year-long doldrums.

   Blown out of the water in an ear-shattering explosion, purportedly set off by an unknown group of Chilean terrorists, is Meyer’s boat, the John Maynard Keynes. (Meyer is a world- famous economist, as you may or may not be surprised to learn.)

   On board was Meyer’s niece, his only living relative, and her new husband. Readers familiar with life in McGee’s universe will suspect that all is not what it seems, even before the evidence starts coming in.

   The murderer’s trail leads to Texas and upstate New York before swooping back down to Mexico, where Meyer and McGee unite their efforts with those of a modern-day Mayan princess in obtaining a final bit of retribution. Their prey is a lady-killer of some duration, who promises not to yield without an all-out struggle.

   Most of the action will be found in these final few chapters. Those seeking an epic saga crammed with rugged blood-and-guts action and suspense will have to look`elsewhere. This is a detective story, pure and simple, albeit with a dash more of relentless vigilantism than you’d expect in a more law-abiding sort of adventure.

   As if to compensate for the lack of action in the early going, boiled away as it were in the intense Texas sun, there is enough reflective and introspective interaction and byplay between the characters to more than maintain MacDonald’s reputation as America’s number one philosophical myth-master and debunker. JDM often puts into words what the rest of us only feel.

   In spite of being today the object of almost constant academic scrutiny, MacDonald has added another fine entry to his cumulative bibliography. While there is a definite feeling of déjà vu closing in, as if some elements and patterns in his work are beginning to repeat themselves, John D. MacDonald is still a slick, effective writer.

   Even if much of the cruder vitality of his younger days is gone, the keen, sharp insights he has into each of his characters are still more than sufficient for them to meet any challenge he presents them with.

Rating:   B plus.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 6, No. 6, November-December 1982 (somewhat shortened & revised)