Friday, October 29, 2021

64. Dead Low Tide by John D. MacDonald

Dead Low Tide is the penultimate book in the list of non-Travis McGree JDM's recommended by the still missed Al Gorman.  I found them all in Vancouver many years ago and have been slowly working my way through them. I'm trying to take my time now that I am near the end, but felt vaguely dissatisfied after Holy Fire and needed some good hard-boiled manliness.  Dead Low Tide reads quickly and mostly enjoyably as all JDM books, but unfortunately was possibly one of the weakest so far.  It had several forced situations to drive the plotline that were real groaners and had a lot of excessive JDM moralizing.  I can't tell what he hates worse, greasy spoons or pornography, both of which got a multi-paragraph haranguing.

The narrator is Andy McClintock, office man for a Florida developer in the middle of building an ambitious suburb on a key.  His boss is a strong, bullheaded self-made man who has been giving McClintock the run-around about a promised promotion to do actual on-site work.  The boss's somewhat scrawny but also sexually alluring (of course) wife comes to McClintock and asks him to snoop around and try and find out what is wrong with her husband, as he has been suddenly distant.  McClintock refuses but does decide to confront his boss about the promised promotion. Instead of stalling, the boss gives it to him and reveals a weird fatalism in doing so.  Soon after, he commits suicide by shooting himself in the neck with McClintock's spear gun (that he finds later stolen from his garage).

So of course this leads to McClintock being accused of the murder (also having been spotted hanging out with the wife plus the new contract).  It looked promising but we had several of JDM's weird asides about love and female sexuality.  McClintock lives in a humble rented cabin and his neighbour is an attractive, huskily healthy midwestern divorcee.  They respect and like each other, had a brief fling, but decided mutually to keep things in the friend zone. There is a very abrupt "plot twist" that felt unfair to the reader (which I've never experienced with JDM before) that sort of makes their relationship a major plot line.  The bad guy turns out to be none of the characters established in the beginning, so there is no mystery for the reader to solve, though it appears to be set up as if there is.  And there is a very unrealistic escape that allows McClintock to be the hero even though that all doesn't really make sense.  It is somewhat redeemed by an incredible climax where he literally fishes the badguy off a boat.  That was fun, but leading up to it I was pretty disappointed.

SPOILER ALERT (for my own future reference):  The healthy midwestern girl gets murdered about halfway through the book, giving McClintock his revenge drive.  He realizes that he loved her after all, that she was the one under his nose all this time and now she is dead.  He does the detective work (and the details here are well done) to find the killer who is a wandering psychopath.  The cops catch him and to get him to confess suddenly reveal that McClintock's love interest is not dead after all.  They faked it the entire time to draw the killer out!  It's weak on several levels, because it implies the fat, narrow-minded police chief actually wanted McClintock's meddling, which just didn't ring true given all their previous interactions.  It also feels like a forced way to make a satisfying love triangle.  Then the psycho escapes and manages to evade a vast dragnet, double back and of course catch McClintock and his new love in a vulnerable position, which does lead the incredible fishing revenge moment (which I will paste as an image below).

JDM would not have been a fan of PornHub

I feel like he does a disservice to what is now a touchstone of American culture


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