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Underground Reading: Deadly Welcome by John D MacDonald

Deadly Welcome - John D MacDonaldDeadly Welcome (1958) is one of John D. MacDonald's less heralded stand-alone thrillers. Alex Doyle is a State Department trouble-shooter on his most awkward mission yet. 

An expert in handling tricky foreign situations, Alex is uncomfortably assigned to return to his hometown of Ramona Beach, Florida. Alex is forced to confront his past (as poor white trash) as well as his present (as the whipping boy for a brutal small-town deputy).

The book mashes together many of JDM's favorite themes and tropes, most of which he's used to great success in other stories. As well as the Florida, beachfront location, Deadly Welcome contains a broad-shouldered, healthy-looking woman with sexual hang-ups, the aforementioned brutal deputy, a sultry blonde and a miserly land-owner. 

However, unlike many of Mr MacDonald's other books, Deadly Welcome lacks a compelling central character to tie it all together. Alex Doyle is so bland as to be invisible - so much so that when chapter 11 starts with 'Alex walked up the beach...' my first response was 'who?'. Alex has the obligatory tragic past, but most of his problems are really quite trivial, and easily resolved. 

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