Yes, there it is again at last: The feeling I had upon reading the first McGee book is once more solidly delivered here in the fifth installment. As much as I enjoyed the previous book, this is primo McGee action right here, folks.
My (so far) second favorite of the series (after “The Deep Blue Good-by, which is second to none) “A Deadly Shade of Gold” sees some rather personal trouble dropped right in the lap of good ol’ McGee — and this time he’s not alone on the road to answers.
Interestingly, this was the first book to be published in 1965 (all the others came out in ’64) and is also the first to feature the character of Meyer, McGee’s friend and neighbor.
The enigmatic economist, who also lives on a boat, one moored near McGee’s Busted Flush, cuts an immediately fascinating character: “He looks like the diarama of Early Man in the Museum of Natural History. He has almost as much pelt as an Adirondack black bear. But he can stroll grinning down a beach and acquire a tagalong flock of lovelies the way an ice cream cart ropes children. He called them al Junior. It saves confusion.”
We are told Meyer “predicts trends.”
“He acquired a little money the hard way, and he keeps moving it around from this to that, and it keeps growing nicely, and he does learned articles for incomprehensible journals.”
McGee and Meyer and playing cards amid a bevy of bathing beauties when — Don’t you just know it? — the phone rings. Seems a former friend of McGee’s, one Sam Taggert, is back in town after having fled several years before. He’s in some kind of trouble and wants to ask McGee for help, but he’s even more interested in what’s been up with Nora, the woman he very nearly married before he got cold feet, cheated on her, and fled in shame.
Taggart has been “working in Mexico,” he says, and he doesn’t look good. He shows McGee a strange golden statue, one of apparently a much larger collection, which he has somehow (illegally, it’s heavily implied) come into possession of.
He only has the one now, though, as the others have been taken from him. He plans to sell it to the mysterious party who has the rest of the cache, cut his losses and return to Nora and beg her forgiveness (McGee, still close friends with the woman, told him she still most definitely has feelings for him).
However, before the happy reunion can be managed, somebody brutally kills Taggart and makes off with the gold figure, so now it’s McGee and Nora on the case, looking to recapture whatever they can on the road to vengeance.
That road takes McGee from Florida to New York to Mexico to California, from dirty hovel towns to the seedier side of the art world to private yacht clubs to swanky soirees and brings him into contact with a cast of colorful characters — some allies, some decidedly not.
It’s a rocking good read and I don’t want to give more than that away, because if you’re even a little curious you should seek this one out pronto.
Honestly, this might be my first pick so far for a film adaptation, if one was to be helmed today. Even before the first book, I think this story better establishes McGee as a character, the world he moves in and the types of shenanigans he gets up to.
Also, there are enough locales and supporting characters to keep this moving along nicely and interesting throughout.
Now, reading-wise obviously I’ve already recommended several others in the series, but for those rushed for time I suggest going straight from the first book to this one as kind of a “greatest hits” abridged reading list. It’s that good.
The first five McGee books ranked in order of my favoritism:
1. The Deep Blue Good-by
2. A Deadly Shade of Gold
3. The Quick Red Fox
4. A Purple Place for Dying
5. Nightmare in Pink (swing and miss, MacDonald; but after all nobody’s perfect)