John D. MacDonald’s 1979 novel The Green Ripper will always be a special book to me. In some respects, this book has not aged well and my review is going to face that fact head on. But it is the very first Travis McGee novel that I ever read and that counts for something.
(I know where I bought this but for the life of me I cannot recall why I bought it; I didn’t get into mysteries in a big way until a few years after 1980. My suspicion is that the decision to pick up this novel was one part eye-catching green cover and one part laudatory references to MacDonald by reviewers like Spider Robinson.)
McGee is an aging adventurer, a man with a bewildering list of odd skills picked up from friends, acquaintances, and lovers (so many lovers) over the course of a long, colourful career as a problem-solver and salvage expert.
At the beginning of The Green Ripper, McGee’s career as a two-fisted man of action seems fated to come to a well-earned end. In the course of the seventeenth book in the series, The Empty Copper Sea, McGee encountered something he hadn’t thought possible: a lover (Gretel Howard) with whom he could imagine spending the rest of his life.
McGee isn’t going to spend the rest of his life with Gretel. Gretel is, however, going to spend the remainder of her life with him.