Cinnamon Skin

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One of my reading projects is near the end. Cinnamon Skin is the penultimate novel in John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series. I see the books are in the process of being reissued in paperback, with an introduction by Lee Child. And truly, I see some similarities between Child's hero Jack Reacher and Travis.

In the previous book, Travis's economist sidekick Meyer was deeply traumatized in the final showdown with the villain. He's still under a dark cloud here, morosely schlepping up to Canada to give a lecture series. But things get worse: Meyer lends his yacht, the John Maynard Keynes, to his newlywed niece, Norma and her husband Evan. Headed out from the slip to do some fishing, the Keynes blows up, obliterating all souls aboard. Soon afterward, a terrorist group takes credit for the bomb, revenge for Meyer's giving advice to Chile's dictatorship years previous.

So inept terrorists miss their target, killing some unintended victims instead. A neat story, but some little things about it nag Travis. Eventually he and Meyer get a bead on the actual baddie, trying to get on his elusive, murderous, trail. This takes them here and there: Texas, upstate New York, finally down to Mayan ruins near Cancún. Suspense builds, and there is a thrilling and satisfying climax.

Along the way, MacDonald expertly paints the locales and people they meet. Even minor characters come alive as actual people. Jeez, I miss him.

It's short: my book club hardcover from the mid-80s is slightly over 200 pages. Today's publishing contracts demand more, I think. But not better.

Hey, just a thought: Carl Hiaasen's next book should be titled Cinnamon Skink, in tribute to John D. Whattya think?