John D. MacDonald

Books: Mystery

The Deep Blue Good-by (1964)


Murder by Magic (2004)

The Deep Blue Good-by (1964)

The Deep Blue Good-ByTravis McGee works when he is running low on money. He finds things for people, that they might not otherwise be able to get back, then keeps half the value of what he recovers. He's between jobs and enjoying his relaxed life on his boat when a friend asks him to help out someone she works with. Someone who's ex-boyfriend asked lots of questions about the fortune her father supposedly came home from the war with, then disappears only to return later flashing a whole lot of money.

First off, this book was written in the early 60s, so things are a lot different than they are now. Unfortunately, the things that are most strikingly different are not the technology or the investigating (in many was the story could easily have been set in current times without much in the way of changes) but in the way women are presented and treated. The fact that the setting could easily be modern was what made this so jarring to me. Reading a book set in Victorian England or even during WWII, one expects the attitude towards women to be radically different from what it is now, and in fact a modern mindset often feels extremely out of place.

But in a setting that feels modern, the attitudes kept throwing me out of the story.

So despite it being an interesting and well-written story, it just didn't particularly work for me, perhaps because we're not yet far enough away from that time for the attitudes to see foreign or amusing.

Rating: 6/10


Murder by Magic (2004) edited by Rosemary Edghill

I love fantasy, and I love mysteries, so I figured that this should be a great short story collection. After all, I've read some excellent fantasy mysteries recently, such as those written by Charlaine Harris and Simon R. Green. This collection, however, was a mixed bag. For one thing, it look me about three months to read. I'd zip through a couple of stories, and then get bogged down in a story that took days to read, and then I set it aside for something else that looked more interesting.

The problem with several of the stories seemed to be that the ability to write good fantasy does not mean the ability to write good fantasy, and vice versa.

But there are some excellent stories in this collection.

My favorite story was Laura Resnick's "Doppelgangster," and I even made Michael read that one (he also loved it). It's quick and funny, it even made me laugh out loud. And it was a good mystery as well, with the clues there to be found, if you noticed them.

I enjoyed Esther M. Friesner's story "Au Purr" which was well done fantasy and a pretty good mystery. I also really liked Lawrence Watt-Evans' story "Dropping Hints." It reminded me of a puzzle that I'd heard, or perhaps a folk tale, of five identical creatures, and how do you tell them apart? M.J. Hamilton's "Double Jeopardy" was also interesting, although I found the fantasy element rather confusing in the beginning.

And confusing is where the stories I didn't like seemed to go wrong. I had a terrible time trying to make any sense of Debra Doyle's "A Death in the Working." The story was only 8 1/2 pages, but took me three days to read, and I never did make sense of what was happening.

And there were some stories that were good fantasies, but really didn't seem like mysteries. I enjoyed Mercedes Lackey's "Grey Eminence" but it hardly seemed a murder mystery.

So, as a mystery collection, I found this anthology mostly disappointing. But I really do recommend looking for Laura Resnick's "Doppelgangster," which was just plain fun.

Rating: 5/10