Travis McGee has known his share of beautiful girls, but true love always passed him by—until Gretel. Life aboard the Busted Flush has never been so sweet. But suddenly, Gretel dies of an unidentified illness—or so he’s told. Convinced that the woman who stole his heart has been murdered, McGee finds himself pursuing a less-than-noble cause: revenge.
“To diggers a thousand years from now, the works of John D. MacDonald would be a treasure on the order of the tomb of Tutankhamen.”—Kurt Vonnegut
McGee has lost not only the love of his life but also his last hope for stability. Soon grief turns to blinding rage. So when he finds the people responsible for Gretel’s death, McGee goes off the rails—and off the grid, three thousand miles from home.
McGee emerges in the California woods as Tom McGraw, a fisherman looking for his long-lost daughter. This mysterious newcomer starts knocking off targets one by one. But as he pursues his single-minded crusade for justice, he becomes more and more unhinged. McGee has spent his life saving other people, but now he’ll need to find the strength to save himself—before he loses his mind.
Features a new Introduction by Lee Child
About the Author
Date of Birth:July 24, 1916
Date of Death:December 28, 1986
Place of Birth:Sharon, PA
Place of Death:Milwaukee, WI
Education:Syracuse University 1938; M.B. A. Harvard University, 1939
Read an Excerpt
Meyer came aboard the Busted Flush on a dark, wet, windy Friday afternoon in early December. I had not seen him in nearly two months. He looked worn and tired, and he had faded to an indoor pallor. He shucked his rain jacket and sat heavily in the biggest chair and said he wouldn’t mind at all if I offered him maybe a little bourbon, one rock, a dollop of water.
“Where’s Gretel?” he asked as I handed him his drink.
“Moved out,” I said. He looked so dismayed I quickly added that she had found herself a job, finally, way the hell and gone over in the suburb of Tamarac, west of North Lauderdale and west of the Turnpike, out in the area of the shiny new developments and shopping plazas, near University Community Hospital and Timber Run Golf Club. “Couldn’t get any farther away and still be in the same metropolitan area. It takes at least forty minutes to drive over there.”
“The outfit is called, excuse the expression, Bonnie Brae. It is a combination fat farm, tennis club, and real estate development. She works in the office, lives in one of the model houses, gives tennis lessons to the littlies, exercise classes for the fatties, and is becoming indispensable. She can tell you all about it. She’ll be here about six or six thirty.”
“I was afraid you two had split.”
“No chance. I’m not going to let that one get away.”
“It’s a phase, Meyer. She did hard time in a bad marriage and says it stunted her. She has to make it on her own, she says, to become a complete person, and when she is, then we can think about what kind of arrangement we’re going to have.”
“Makes a certain amount of sense.”
“Not to me.”
“But you’re not … being derisive or patronizing?”
“Hell, no. I am being full of understanding, and all that.”
I didn’t want to try to tell him what a vacuum she left when she packed and moved out. The houseboat was dismally empty. When I woke up, if I wanted to hear clinking sounds from the galley, I had to go make them myself. The winter boats were beginning to come down, filling up the empty berths, spewing out their slender and elegant ladies to walk the area, shopping and smiling, providing what in times past had been like one of those commercial hatcheries where you pay a fee and catch your own trout and take it home to cook. But Grets had made all the pretty ladies look brittle, bloodless, and tasteless, and made the time without her seem leaden and endless.
In another season there were the girls of summer, robust and playful in their sandy ways, and now here were the winter ones, with cool surmise in the tended eye, fragrant and speculative, strolling and shopping, sailing and tanning, then making their night music and night scent, searching for something they could not quite name, but would know once they found it.
“How did the conference go?” I asked.
He shook a weary head. “These are bad days for an economist, my friend. We have gone past the frontiers of theory. There is nothing left but one huge ugly fact.”
“There is a debt of perhaps two trillion dollars out there, owed by governments to governments, by governments to banks, and there is not one chance in hell it can ever be paid back. There is not enough productive capacity in the world, plus enough raw materials, to provide maintenance of plant plus enough overage even to keep up with the mounting interest.”
“What happens? It gets written off?”
He looked at me with a pitying expression. “All the major world currencies will collapse. Trade will cease. Without trade, without the mechanical-scientific apparatus running, the planet won’t support its four billion people, or perhaps even half that. Agribusiness feeds the world. Hydrocarbon utilization heats and houses and clothes the people. There will be fear, hate, anger, death. The new barbarism. There will be plague and poison. And then the new Dark Ages.”
“Should I pack?”
“Go ahead. Scoff. What the sane people and sane governments are trying to do is scuffle a little more breathing space, a little more time, before the collapse.”
“How much time have we got?”
“If nobody pushes the wrong button or puts a bomb under the wrong castle, I would give us five more years at worst, twelve at best. What is triggering it is the crisis of reduced expectations. All over the world people are suddenly coming to realize that their children and grandchildren are going to have it worse than they did, that the trend line is down. So they want to blame somebody. They want to hoot and holler in the streets and burn something down.”
“Whose side are you on?”
“I’m one of the scufflers. Cut and paste. Fix the world with paper clips and rubber bands.”
“Are you trying to depress me, old buddy?”
“On Pearl Harbor Day?”
“So it is.”
“And with each passing year it is going to seem ever more quaint, the little tin airplanes bombing the sleepy iron giants.”
“There you go again.”
He yawned and I noticed again how worn he looked. The international conference had been held in Zurich. There had been high hopes—the newspapers said—for a solution to the currency problems, but as it went on and on and on, interest could not be sustained, nor could hope.
“How was the trip back, Meyer?”
“I was too sound asleep to notice.”
“Did you all just sit around and read papers to each other?”
“There was some of that. Yes. But most of it was workshop, computer analysis. Feed all the known, unchangeable factors into the program, and then add the ones that can be changed, predicating interdependence, making the variations according to a pattern, and analyzing the shape of the world that emerges, each one a computer model. Very bright young specialists assisted. We came out all too close to the doom anticipated by the Club of Rome, no matter how we switched the data around. It comes down to this, Travis—there are too many mouths to feed. One million three hundred thousand more every week! And of all the people who have ever been alive on Earth, more than half are living right now. We are gnawing the planet bare, and technology can’t keep pace with need.”
I had never seen him more serious, or more depressed. I fixed him a fresh drink when Gretel arrived. I met her, and after the welcome kiss, she looked over my shoulder and gave a whoop of surprise and pleasure at seeing Meyer. She thrust me aside and ran into his delighted bear hug. Then she held him off at arm’s length and tilted her head to give him her brown-eyed measuring stare.
“You look awful!” she said. “You look like you just got out of jail.”
“Fairly good guess. And you look fantastic, Gretel.”
“It goes with the job. I got sort of sloppy living on this barge, eating too much and drinking too much. Today I jogged with four sets of fatties. I must have done seven miles. I’ve got the greatest new job.”
“Travis was telling me about it.”
“You’ll have to come out and let me show you around.” Quite suddenly the enthusiasm had faded out of her voice. I couldn’t imagine why. She gave me a quick look and looked away, and went to the galley to fix herself one of her vegetable juice cocktails.
I followed her and said, “Is something wrong out there?”
“No. Of course not.”
“Hey, Grets. This here is me. Asking.”
“I hear you asking. I think I might fall right off the wagon right now. I’m down to where I can spare a few pounds. Straight Boodles and rocks, okay?”
“When you come down off it, you come down a way.”
She leaned against a storage locker as I fixed her drink. I looked at her, a great lithe woman who, on tiptoe, could almost look me in the eye. Thick brown sun-streaked hair, dark-brown eyes, firm jaw, broad mouth, high-bridged imperious nose. A woman of passion, intensity, good humor, mocking grace, and a very irritating and compelling need for total—or almost total—independence. During all the lazy weeks aboard the Busted Flush when, after the death of her brother in Timber Bay, I had brought her all the way around the peninsula to Fort Lauderdale, we had arrived at last at a relationship she had decided did not threaten her freedom. She was a hearty and sensuous woman, and for a long time she was suspicious and reluctant in lovemaking, apparently feeling that my increasing knowledge of her body’s resources, its needs and rhythms and special stimuli, was somehow an exercise in ownership. But after she decided to accept completely, she became herself—forthright, evocative, and deliciously bawdy when the mood was upon her.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Since I haven't read the entire series, I don't have any sense of who Gretel is, but certainly she comes across as a life-changing person for Travis McGee. If this is so, and she's not just another of his endless succession of boat bunnies, this is a very sad book.At first the book gives the sensation that McGee is going to take on an international global conspiracy. That never goes very well in a book with only a couple of hundred pages; the author tends to spend several pages explaining how careful and secret the organization is, and then the secret agent waltzes in and cleans everyone out. Luckily, whatever the followup is, McGee is content to only take on a small unit of the conspiracy. Even then, MacDonald feels the need to point out that he had to be extremely lucky to make it out alive. Travis works much better when he's bumming around on his boat in Florida.
McGee fans generally agree this one is separated from other McGee books for two reasons: the religious cult and the flavor of spiritual, and mostly because Gretal is the woman we wish McGee would have married for the rest of the series. In fact, I have patterned June in the 22nd McGee chronicle I'm writing after Gretal, at lest physically.
Keeps you wanting to continue and not put it down. Have just finished the whole series and wish that John MacDonald were still alive and writing.
A good Travis McGee Book to read!!!