I’ve been haphazardly making my way through John D. Macdonald’s Travis McGee series, which explains how I am just now arriving at the second McGee story. While I found the first McGee book, The Deep Blue Good-By, extremely affecting and well-written, this follow-up is much different. Nightmare in Pink is a lurid romp with an absolutely outrageous plot. Whereas McGee is usually something of a noble figure in this book he is more of an anti-hero. Usually Macdonald’s plot are complex and intertwined while the story is fairly simplistic and the solution to the mystery rests on coincidence and contrivance.
The setup, briefly: McGee gets a letter from an old army buddy confined to a VA hospital asking for a favor McGee feels he is owed. On his friend’s behalf he heads to New York City to investigate the suspicious death of his friend’s sister’s new husband. The man was killed in an apparently random street mugging shortly after divulging to his wife that he suspected his boss was being robbed by several of his fellow employees. He also left behind $10,000 in a paper bag.
Though McGee always has a way with the ladies, Nightmare in Pink takes it to extremes. Does he comfort his friend’s widowed sister by providing waves of pleasure in bed? You bet he does. Does she frequently proclaim him the best she’s ever had, in terms so pleading and subservient as to be deeply unsettling? Of course. And does every other woman McGee meets try to get him into bed, even going so far as to literally climb into bed with him and not take no for answer? You see where this is going.
The mystery is frankly beside the point here, as Macdonald sidelines that story in order to put McGee in extreme peril. The resolution to that storyline is fantastical and disturbing. It is also completely ridiculous.
It’s a good thing I didn’t read the Travis McGee series in order. Had I done so I believe this entry would have stopped me from going forward.