Cinnamon Skin by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Every time I read this book I end up humming Neil Young’s Cinnamon Girl the entire time so it’s a relief to finish it and put a stop to that particular ear worm.
Travis McGee’s best buddy Meyer has loaned his houseboat to his niece and her new husband for their honeymoon while he’s away at a conference. Unfortunately, somebody blows up the boat as they’re going out on a fishing trip and all aboard are killed. (Providing more evidence for my theory that nothing good ever happens on a boat.) While a South American terrorist group claims responsibility for the bombing, but that makes no sense to Meyer who asks Travis to help him find whoever was responsible.
McGee starts poking around and comes across evidence that the new hubby wasn’t on the boat after all. Pulling on that thread puts them on the trail of a mystery man with a chilling pattern of seduction and murder for profit. The other wrinkle here is that Meyer is recovering from a very bad moment in a previous book so catching his niece’s killer is a way to regain his nerve.
As usual when I reread one of these John D. MacDonald novels I find a lot I liked with some very good insights of what society was becoming mixed with some incredibly dated sexist attitudes. Travis and Meyer make for a good partnership of detective/con men, and a lot of good stuff comes from them trying to backtrack someone just based on some casual anecdotes he told them over dinner one night. MacDonald also uses McGee to muse on where the world is headed and really hit the nail on the head regarding some predictions about the growing computer age of the early ‘80s.
Yet Travis still has to give a mostly platonic female friend a pat on the butt in appreciation of a job well done. In fairness, the books got better in terms of this from their start in the ‘60s, and a big subplot here is that Travis is having relationship troubles with his current lady that are dealt with in a surprisingly adult fashion that gives equal time to her point of view.
The overall improvement of McGee’s relationships with women, and the personal angle of Meyer’s involvement make this one a better than average book in the series.
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