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CR3 #56: The Deep Blue Good-by by John D. MacDonald

This is the first of John D. MacDonald's novels about Travis McGee, a sometime private eye who lives on a boat and takes jobs when money runs low. Basically, Trav hunts down things that have been taken (or lost or stolen) and returns them, keeping half the proceeds for himself. In this particular case, he gets a little more than he bargained for when he agrees to help a woman get back her late father's nest egg.

The story takes place in Florida during the sixties, and I very much appreciated MadDonald's sixties vibe--it felt very natural. The character of Trav is quite likable--tough but funny, and sensitive when the situation demands. I pictured him as sort of similar to Jim Longworth of The Glades (if you haven't been watching this show on A&E, you should. It's a fun summer procedural), very laid-back but capable of violence if sufficiently provoked. The other characters in the story were also interesting and fairly well-written. MacDonald's style of writing is really what sells the book, though. He has a way with descriptions that actually reminds me a little bit of Stephen King. He's one of few authors that can write a multi-page description of something and manage to keep me interested enough not to skim.

I'd recommend this to anyone who likes traditional mysteries (i.e. girl in distress seeks help from tough detective, hijinks and gun play ensue), particularly those that are well-written, funny, and clever.

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