Picks and Pans Review: The Lonely Silver Rain

updated 05/06/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/06/1985 01:00AM

by John D. MacDonald

After three long years—an eternity to followers of Travis McGee—the self-styled beach bum-cum-knight-errant is back in this, his 21st detective adventure since the series began in 1964. Sad to say, McGee is not aging as gracefully as his fans might hope. Oh, sure, the faithful reader can take pleasure in once again boarding McGee's wonderful old houseboat, the Busted Flush, or reacquainting himself with Meyer, the hairy economist. But where McGee was once given to disarming, philosophical asides, now he is positively preachy. Plagued by self-doubt, he is growing crotchety and—who'd have thought it?—a tad tiresome. The story covers familiar terrain. Finding a millionaire's stolen yacht plunges McGee into the nasty netherworld of the Miami drug scene. Who is after whom, and why, gets quite complicated, but the veteran MacDonald reader will have time to contemplate the mystery of cat-shaped pipe cleaners, the many uses of Miracle Glue and the author's descriptive flair. "Buzzards circled aloft," he says at one point, "dipping down to chomp the slain creatures on the concrete." McGee survives, of course, but takes little joy in his survival. Yet just when the reader begins to wonder if a favorite literary character is destined to become, in his words, "a sour, peevish old bastard," a handy deus ex machina wrenches him out of his doldrums. Exults McGee, "Something has changed the world and washed it clean." Let's not spoil the fun by telling what that something is. Anyway, this downbeat book ends on a note hopeful enough so that McGee novel No. 22 can be anticipated with confidence. (Knopf, $15.95)

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