Travis McGee and his friend Meyer are on their way back from a wedding late at night on a dark road when a strange young woman dashes in front of McGee’s beloved car. In his attempt to avoid her, McGee winds up putting his blue Rolls-Royce into the river and thus begins a bizarre series of events which leads to him and Meyer being arrested for Meyer. The set-up looks airtight but with the help of a high-powered lawyer who owes him a favor, McGee manages to convince the local sheriff that he and his friend are innocent and talks his way into a part of the investigation.
From there, The Long Lavender Look proceeds much like any McGee novel. Travis gets under the skin of local law enforcement and power brokers, finds himself in multiple physical confrontations and at severe risk of death at least once, and spends most of the rest of the time either in bed with one beautiful woman or fending off the advances of others.
The man McGee was suspected of murdering turns out to be one Frank Baither, just released from a five-year stint at the state penitentiary. The main suspect in an armored-car job, the theory is that Baither stashed nearly a million dollars and intentionally put himself on ice while his conspirators took themselves out of the way trying to find the money. McGee’s got to figure out who else was in on the job and where the money is hiding. Along the way he encounters a prostitution ring run right under the sheriff’s nose, a family where the step-father and step-daughter seem a little too close, and a waitress whose innate romanticism beguiles McGee though it puts her in harm’s way.
Macdonald is a consummate prose stylist and his characterization of McGee is consistently superb. These attributes often make up for some convoluted plotting. The Long Lavender Look eventually racks up quite a body count and McGee himself does not escape unscathed, but the resolution of the mystery is a bit lackluster and a little random. Still, the McGee series is always a fun diversion, and The Long Lavender Look is no exception.