I am a fan of detective fiction. I particularly enjoy so-called "hard boiled" or "noir" stories in which a flawed but moral hero stands up for an individual who is at risk of being destroyed by a corrupt system and the corrupt people that profit from it. Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler were creators of the genre but, for my money, nobody has written noir fiction better than John D. MacDonald in the stories about his "salvage consultant" creation, Travis McGee. Travis McGee is a cynical, world weary guy who lives on a house boat he won in a poker game. He supports himself by occasionally helping someone retrieve an object of value for a fee. He otherwise considers himself retired. McGee is given to long rumination about how developers and politicians are ruining the environment, and about the fundamental selfishness and dishonesty of humankind. I recently read about a mountain of plastic garbage, larger than the state of Texas, that is floating out in the Pacific Ocean. It reminded me of a long passage in "The Scarlet Ruse", which was originally published in 1973, in which McGee ponders the ruination of the Caribbean by oil companies.
In "The Scarlet Ruse", McGee sets out to help Meyer's friend Fedderman. Fedderman sells rare stamps to wealthy investors. Fedderman holds the stamps for the investors and has noticed that one group of stamps has been stolen and replaced by fakes. He asks Travis McGee for help in recovering the missing stamps. Of course, the investor involved is a prominent underworld figure, which adds considerable risk for both Fedderman and McGee. How were the stamps stolen, when they are always kept in a safe deposit box? Which of Fedderman's employees, or the client, may have managed the theft, and how can McGee get them back? Pretty standard stuff. But it's the character of Travis McGee, and the skill of John D. MacDonald that makes this, and all of the Travis McGee books a special treat. I recommend it highly.