A beautiful movie star desperately needs Travis McGee’s help and is willing to take him to bed to get it, but McGee is more intrigued by her coolly efficient personal assistant. When McGee agrees to hunt down the shutterbug blackmailing starlet Lysa Dean over some dirty photos, he is surprised to find that the assistant is part of the deal. As the two of them crisscross the country tracking down potential suspects, McGee discovers hidden depths in the strangely alluring woman he’s been partnered with.
The developing relationship between McGee and Dana Holzer is definitely the highlight of The Quick Red Fox. Holzer is one of the more fully realized women in the McGee series so far and the fact that McGee respects her before he falls for her is a refreshing change of pace. Though it’s inevitable that something will break them apart by the end of the novel, their relationship is fun while it lasts.
As a detective story The Quick Red Fox is a letdown, however. The structure isn’t much help. McGee and Holzer track down the other people in the dirty photos one by one (and there are quite a lot of people in those photos, by the way.) There isn’t much in the way of interaction between the suspects and there isn’t a lot for the reader to go on. Each of the participants turns out to be a sad, lonely person with secrets to conceal and some of them have received the same blackmail letters as McGee’s client. When McGee discovers the photographer’s identity it turns out the man is dead and thus the investigation shifts to a more traditional detective story. Who was so afraid of those photos they would kill to keep them from becoming public?
Without spoiling anything, suffice it to say that the solution, though certainly surprising, is deeply unsatisfactory for being so random and unsupported by the story to that point.
As a final point, though I typically enjoy Macdonald’s writing and the McGee character it must be said that he often says things that would offend just about anyone. In this installment, McGee encounters a lesbian couple and his opinions on their relationship are preposterously barbaric. Whether reflective of Macdonald’s own views or intended to complicate the McGee character I can’t say, but they strike a resoundingly sour note in what is meant to be a fun series.