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The ninth of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee books is solid upper-shelf fun. I would not count it among true top-shelf Trav (Blue, Gold, Orange), but neither is it no-brand happy hour swill McGee either (Pink, Yellow, Amber).

No, Gray (published in 1968) rests among those other deservedly revered titles in the series which I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend to anyone even slightly more than casually interested in the character: Purple and Red.

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This is one of the more personal cases McGee’s become involved in (in the best possible way, in that regard it reminded me of Gold).

A friend and former football pal of McGee’s is having business trouble, trouble which seems to get inordinately worse the more adamantly he refuses to sell his mid-sized marina business to a group of shady property developers (oh, how MacDonald hates those shady property developers).

Quickly, things get out of hand and the guy (the wonderfully named Tush Bannon) not only goes bankrupt, but also he gets evicted and soon ends up dead under mysterious circumstances. Of course, McGee leaps into action to prove his friend was murdered and make as much trouble as possible for the guilty.

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Meyer features heavily in this one, which is always good for bonus points in my scorebook. And although there were times when I didn’t totally understand the whole “stock market fraud” subplot, it comes together well enough to make the exact details irrelevant. 

Also of note regarding this title is the introduction of (the also wonderfully named) Puss Killian, who I am given to understand will be, much like Chookie, a returning woman in McGee’s life — though one with supposedly much greater personal significance. 

Indeed, everybody’s favorite salvage consultant seemed pretty hung up on Puss. A nice touch of genuine pathos from a main character who can come across as a bit too removed and detached at times, in my opinion. 

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Yes, overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable installment and one I highly recommend. 

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Now, on to “The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper” as this Summer of McGee Marathon continues…

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