Travis McGee isn’t sure he wants to take on his newest prospective client, despite the fact that his “retirement fund” is running low. Something about Mona Yeoman annoys him, however much he might sympathize with the fact that she’s stuck in a loveless marriage to a rich man who has robbed her of her father’s estate. However, his mind is made up for him when a sniper’s bullet cuts Mona’s life short and Travis finds himself on the wrong side of the local police after her body disappears.
Everyone seems to believe that Mona skipped town with a local professor she’d been seeing behind her husband’s back. Travis has his work cut out for him convincing the police that he isn’t just a part of her scheme. Once he does, he keeps poking around. Did Mona’s rich husband get tired of her complaints, or is someone trying to get to him through her? Either way, why cover up the murder but leave the eyewitness alive?
Travis McGee is kind of a male wish-fulfillment fantasy. He’s always the smartest, toughest guy in the room and he always has the best comeback. And he certainly always knows better than the silly, scared women who come to him for help. A Purple Place for Dying features a fairly hysterical example of the damsel in distress, as McGee takes the professor’s repressed spinsterish sister into his care and, in addition to finding out what happened to her brother, shows her that she doesn’t have to be afraid of sex after all.
It says a lot about John D. Macdonald’s writing that despite all the heavy-duty misogyny on display they’re still a lot of fun to read. The mystery at the heart of A Purple Place for Dying is very satisfying, with a solution steeped in the worst of human nature.