Joe Abercrombie x Success
NaNoNoWriMo - an Introduction

Underground Reading: The Turquoise Lament by John D. MacDonald

The Turquoise Lament The Turqouise Lament (1973) is the fifteenth in the Travis McGee series from John D. MacDonald, and, so far, one of the best in the series. 

Travis hops out to Hawaii at the request of an old friend. Or, more precisely, the nubile daughter of an old friend. Ted Llewellen was a treasure hunter (a successful one) and, more importantly, someone that saved McGee's life (in a bar fight!). So when his daughter, Pidge (an unfortunate nickname), gives Travis a ring, McGee jumps a plane and heads out.

Pidge is worried that she's going crazy. She's hearing things, seeing things and having weird delusions that her husband (a big genial fellow named Howie) is trying to kill her. She's now living on her own until she can figure out what's going wrong. 

Travis solves things in his typical way: he does some cursory snooping and then shags Pidge rotten. (Lying to Howie the entire time, of course.) His preliminary investigations (snicker, chortle) reveal that nothing is wrong - in fact, that Pidge is a classic case of bottled-up anxieties. Doctor McGee gives her his patented injection (couldn't resist), pats her on the bottom and flies back to Florida.

This is where things go horribly wrong for Travis. Despite the clear kookiness of the situation (someone else's wife, a generation too young, etc), Travis is very much in love. He tries to drown the sensation by sleeping with half the housewives in Fort Lauderdale, but, mostly, he just makes himself and everyone around him utterly miserable. He finally admits that he's fallen to himself - and, happily, is rewarded by a letter from Pidge saying that she feels likewise. She's taking Howie on one last boat trip. Give her a few weeks and she'll sell the boat in Samoa and fly to join Travis forever and ever.

The Turquoise LamentTravis stops his grumpiness (and lechery) and starts walking on air. But this doesn't last long either. Little bits and pieces (we often call them "clues") fit together - belatedly - and Travis realizes that poor Pidge may on a trip much, much further away than Samoa...

McGee, again belatedly, starts poking around in Howie's past, and the mysterious circumstances surrounding Pidge's bouts of insanity. With more skill than usual, he uncovers the crimes, the villains and the danger. This would be a formulaic McGee story, except for the fact that he knows that everything he does is utterly meaningless. The one decision that mattered - telling Pidge that she wasn't in any danger - was made months ago. Everything he's doing now? Just killing time.

For once, we have Travis as a completely empathetic character. He's on his back foot throughout the entire novel, scrambling impotently whilst the tension mounts. And, oddly, the entire situation is his own fault, something he readily admits, much to my surprise. This confession of guilt is enough to sway even the most jaded McGee reader over to the old boy's side. For the first time in a long while, I felt myself fighting alongside Travis, rather than being exasperated by his antics. Even when he's at his most reprehensible, he's actually, legitimately aware of it - and his disappointment in himself, for once, comes across as genuine.

Without revealing too many more spoilers - as I think this is a genuinely enjoyable book - the one disappointment was the tidy denouement, as MacDonald swept the slate clean before the next adventure. Otherwise, this book is exceptional. Tense, exciting, filled with great characters and startling insights, The Turquoise Lament is one of Travis' finest hours.

[Editor's note: For the sake of Travis' personal Kinsey report, we'll put Pidge down as a "3" for now, with a host of "2"s as well (one nurse gets named, but Meyer alludes to six others! All over the course of one holiday season).]

For our other reviews of Travis and his adventures, check out The Endless Rainbow Snark.