Had I rated this book when I first read it twenty-five or thirty years ago, I no doubt would have given it a solid four stars plus. I loved this series when I first discovered it and couldn't devour the books fast enough. But the times have changed, and so have I, no doubt, and these novels no longer appeal to me nearly as much as they once did.
The story at the core of the book is fine. As it opens, Travis McGee is in something of an emotional slump and fears that he may be losing a step or two to Father Time and to the Bad Guys who always seem to be hovering around McGee's neighborhood in South Florida. He's at least entertaining the possibilty of entering into some sort of a relationship with a very wealthy British widow who's extremely good in bed and who would like McGee to sail off into the sunset with her on her fabulous yacht.
McGee's best friend, Meyer the Economist, is actively promoting the idea out of fear that McGee may in fact be slipping a bit and should no longer be leading such a dangerous existence. In his heart of hearts, McGee knows that he would never do such a thing, and the reader knows it too. But the fact that the thought has even entered his mind is scary as hell, both for McGee and for the reader.
Fortunately, a new problem will shortly demand McGee's attention and put an end to all this silliness. The problem appears in the person of Harry Dolan who is now the husband of Mary Dolan. Back when she was Mary Dillon, Mrs. Dolan was one of those tragically wounded women that McGee had taken on a long cruise, healed and restored to health as only he can. Dolan says his wife has disappeared and he accuses McGee of taking up with her again and hiding her from him.
McGee assures Dolan that this is nonsense and that he hasn't seen Mary in three years. Dolan responds by pulling out a small gun and firing several shots in McGee's direction. Fortunately, they all miss and McGee disarms Dolan, but the fact that the angry husband was even able to get close to McGee with a gun confirms McGee's suspicion that he has lost a step or two.
McGee sends Dolan on his way, but is worried about Mary, whom he really liked. He's also concerned because he believes that if Mary were in trouble again, she would have reached out to him. He wonders why she hasn't. Accordingly, McGee goes searching for the missing woman on a quest that will take him to Grenada and back. Inevitably, along the way he will encounter some especially sick, nasty and dangerous people who are working a particularly wicked scheme, and he will be challenged as perhaps never before.
This is all well and good, and again, the bones of this story are fine. But as was always the case in these books, the action is frequently interrupted while McGee takes time out to wax philosophically about the problems of the world and to do a considerable amount of navel-gazing, analyzing his own personal psyche.
When I first read these books, I wasn't bothered by this and in fact, I found some of McGee's musings to be very interesting. Now, though, I find them to be awfully dated and overly pompous, and I feel that they simply get in the way of a good story. As other reviewers have repeatedly noted, McGee's attitude about women is often cringe-worthy in this day and age as well; however this book is not quite as bad as some of the others in that regard.
Every time I pick up one of these Travis McGee novels I desperately want to love it as much as I did when I first read it, and I'm inevitably disappointed. It occurs to me that I may be being overly harsh in this regard and that I should not expect that a book written nearly fifty years ago is going to seem as fresh as it once did. But, at least to my mind, other series from this time period seem to have aged much more gracefully than this one. Thus three stars rather than the four and a half my younger self would have given A Tan and Sandy Silence.