Author John D. MacDonald penned over 50 thrillers, including his long-running salvage-consultant series 'Travis McGee'. He's widely considered one of the greatest crime-fiction writers of all-time. This 1954 novel, “Death Trap”, was his 18th stand-alone crime novel, an astounding number considering it was written 10-years before the successful 'Travis McGee' debut.
The book is written in the crime noir format of first-person. Our protagonist is Hugh, a former war veteran who's on a much-needed vacation from his engineering job in Spain. While planning to fish in California, he takes a detour after reading some disparaging news in a national newspaper. The brother of his former lover, Vicky, is about to be executed for murdering a teen girl in a small college town in Illinois. Hugh, feeling the man is innocent, vows to uncover the truth.
After a tearful reunion with Vicky, Hugh begins to understand the layout of this sleepy college town. The citizens are declaring murder, the verdict was guilty and the torches are well-lit. With just 10-days before the date with the chair, Hugh begins to uncover the town's corruption in a riveting whodunit. All signs point to Vicky's brother, convincing me that the kid should fry. Surprisingly, Hugh discovers a mysterious rape and drowning at a lakeside cabin years before the crime. This mystery is tantalizing, but the connection is blurred. Can Hugh put the two time-frames together? If he can, how does he convince the frenzied town?
John D. MacDonald's literary sales are over 70-million for a reason. The prolific writer spins the typical murder – tramp killed on a lonely backstretch, but this ordinary event is catapulted into a myriad of violence, blackmail, intrigue and ultimately...entertainment. The author keeps us turning the pages, surveying the clues and coming to our own conclusions before swaying us with another exciting chapter of “unveil the next surprise”. I can't say enough good things about “Death Trap”. I've loved every book MacDonald has written and this one is no exception.
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In many respects a tour-de-force. I recommend it, and to anyone who might read it, stop reading this comment NOW. OK, this book was so thrillsville, that the ending, where the killer gets invited to a ho-hum meeting, in which he gets tricked into flaccidly admitting guilt, was a severe let down. Very disappointing ending to an otherwise truly amazing book.ReplyDelete