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The Drowner

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Lucille Hanson had rid herself of the wrong man - her rich husband who lived casually and loved carelessly. Then she found another man she hoped would be right. She was putting together the pieces of her life - until all of her hopes came to rest at the bottom of a lake, where her body was found.

It must have been an accident was what most people said. It might have been suicide, was what others wanted to think. But among her mourners just one person refused to believe it was anything but murder ...

160 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1963

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About the author

John D. MacDonald

306 books1,134 followers
John D. MacDonald was born in Sharon, Pa, and educated at the Universities of Pennsylvania, Syracuse and Harvard, where he took an MBA in 1939. During WW2, he rose to the rank of Colonel, and while serving in the Army and in the Far East, sent a short story to his wife for sale, successfully. He served in the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations. After the war, he decided to try writing for a year, to see if he could make a living. Over 500 short stories and 70 novels resulted, including 21 Travis McGee novels.

Following complications of an earlier heart bypass operation, MacDonald slipped into a coma on December 10 and died at age 70, on December 28, 1986, in St. Mary's Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was survived by his wife Dorothy (1911-1989) and a son, Maynard.

In the years since his death MacDonald has been praised by authors as diverse as Stephen King, Spider Robinson, Jimmy Buffett, Kingsley Amis and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.. Thirty-three years after his passing the Travis McGee novels are still in print.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 86 reviews
Profile Image for Beverly.
785 reviews279 followers
June 1, 2020
Psychological Murder Mystery

The title gives much away. Lucy Hanson died in a swimming accident, supposedly, but she was a strong swimmer and this was a little local lake. So her sister decides to hire a detective to find out what really happened. Paul is an ex-cop with a boring, deadening existence chasing adulterers. He yearns for an assignment that will test his skills, so his boss gives him this case.

This delves deeply into the why of the crime, more than the how; nevertheless, the how is very well thought out and smart. Just because the killer is crazy, it doesn't mean they're stupid. I enjoyed the characters, the southern flavor is right, and the setting is described very well.

The only negative I found is the completely sexist 1960s vibe. The male author liked women and described their bodies a lot, not in a vulgar way, but just a tad too much for my taste. Also, he supports the premise that women shouldn't give it away, but need to give it to a worthy male. Also, the author beloved that if there is no love there; there should be no sex, and if the man is a real man, he can make his woman reach her true promise of sexual fulfillment and her true purpose in life. Ugh!😍
Profile Image for Steven.
Author 2 books91 followers
October 3, 2015
More mystery than noir-thriller. Although the third-person narration wanders among numerous characters and even drifts overhead to an objective point of view at times, we are mostly tethered to private investigator Paul Staniol. Even though all the action is happening to other characters, it is ultimately his story because, as the opening frame suggests, he’s the one changed by this case. Not a whole lot of action sequences in this one. No car chases or boat chases or gun battles. The action here is mostly psychological as the investigator pries information from interviewees. MacDonald spends a lot of words on character development, and it’s a frequent technique of his. He seemed to enjoy creating large character portraits and especially giving all his characters some eccentricity or foible that he could have fun describing. Even some of the minor characters are given considerable coverage on the page. As I noted in a review of another MacDonald novel, it seems a primary technique was to create reams of character portraits and then find ways tease stories out of all these “story people.” I enjoyed this one a lot, but must confess that most of the pleasure came from reading as a writer and appreciating MacDonald’s chops.
Profile Image for Carla Remy.
821 reviews50 followers
July 30, 2019
From 1963
This has a lot of the details that would make up the world of Travis McGee, his series character starting, I think, a year after this. Observations and criticism of the Florida coast as well as humanity in general. A heavy, quite intelligent, focus on economics. I think John D. is a great writer. The mystery here is good. It just is very bogged down by all these other things.
Profile Image for Tim.
901 reviews40 followers
February 25, 2011
Every time I read one of JDM's 75+ books (not too many left now), I think: the greatest pulp novelist ever? And he is so much better than a pulp novelist that I think he might be one of the great storytellers period.
Profile Image for Dave.
2,981 reviews324 followers
January 5, 2023
MacDonald published The Drowner in 1963 right before he embarked on his rather popular Travis McGee series. The setting here is the Florida coast. The story is about one Lucille Hanson, separated but not yet divorced, who has been in a relationship with land developer Sam Kimber. One day Lucy drives her little coupe to a small deserted beach and, leaving her purse and radio going, disappears into the lake. Cramps is, of course, the conclusion though Lucy was a superior swimmer.

Her sister Barbara though doesn’t believe it and hires an investigator Paul Staniol, who carefully, holding his cards to his vest, starts poking around. What he uncovers is a sleazy Florida from tax frauds to land deals to what goes on at parties when the power goes out.

Each of the characters are well developed and we learn just how precarious things are for each of them., financially and emotionally. Staniol keeps his cool throughout. He is the consummate investigator, not a fistfighter or a ladies’ man, though keep an eye on the sexual tensions between him and Barbara.

The story is not quite as tight as it could’ve been and the ending was a little bit underwhelming.
Profile Image for Scarlett.
579 reviews54 followers
March 8, 2020
I read this in anticipation of Eight Perfect Murders, which is supposed to be based on some of the greatest and most unsolvable murders in classic mystery books. I gotta say, I was kinda disappointed in this one. The others I’ve read on the Eight Perfect Murders list have been really awesome, but this felt like a pretty average and unexciting book.

I found the plot so focused on Sam’s tax problems and money that I was pretty uninterested in the book as a whole and specifically who killed Lucille and why. Then I felt like the reveal of the murderer was pretty anticlimactic and also not that shocking.

This book was pretty short, but it really felt like it dragged. I never looked forward to reading it.

That being said, once stuff was revealed, the murders themselves were pretty clever and the descriptions at times were gut wrenching. The last chapter was pretty exciting and suspenseful. I was kind of at the edge of my seat wondering how it was all going to play out. I only wish the entire book had been like that. I’d be willing to read more books by John D. Macdonald because I’ve read he’s pretty legendary, but I wasn’t impressed by my first one.
Profile Image for Robyn.
372 reviews12 followers
October 6, 2021
My final read in prep for Eight Perfect Murders. Many thanks to the library for tracking down many of the books through ILL as more than one of the books on the list are out of print.

I quite liked this one in spite of the sexism; it was pretty obvious what the author felt is the "purpose" of women. I feel like this would be a fun one to discuss with a group. It was fairly pulpy (honestly, I put my library hold sticker over the cover so my husband wouldn't tease me about reading smut) and I was expecting more of a mystery than a suspense thriller, which it turned into about 2/3 through, so it was a bit of a rollercoaster which I enjoyed. Definite shades of Carrie and even perhaps Red Dragon, if that is not too much of a spoiler. It was surprisingly very well-written and overall a lot of fun. Sexist, but fun.
Profile Image for Thea | (unapologetic_bibliosmia).
140 reviews11 followers
April 23, 2020
I read this book in preparation to read ‘Eight Perfect Murders’ (Rules for Murder) as this was one of the eight books referenced in the plot line and I wanted to fully understand the murders and the contexts of these references.

I had to download the kindle edition as there seem to be no print copies available for less than £300, and there are a few grammatical mistakes and errors throughout the book which I put down to the ebook transfer, although these didn’t take away from the book.

As this is one of the eight ‘perfect murders’ throughout literary history according to the mastermind of the novel, I was expecting this to truly blow me away with some clever, complicated mystery of a whodunnit. I was sadly very underwhelmed.

John Macdonald spends a lot of time describing his characters, and creates a web of tanglement between the characters in this book, however I have a real issue with the way he attempts to describe the women in his book. The author frequently attempts to describe feelings of sexual tension from women characters in his book and it feels not only out of place to the story and repetitive but really poorly done. Even his attempts at describing physical characteristics don’t sit right in the book and made me cringe. His male characters were not described in this way which just strikes as odd. I give an example:

“Here was a girl . . . is a girl . . . with superb physical equipment. All the glands are working. She ovulates and she’s got big useful breasts and a good fertile pelvic structure, and the female hormones are feeding into her system right on schedule.”

And another:

“He could see past the wiry roots of her hair to the white meat of her scalp. Her sleeveless blouse exposed the smooth and rounded slabs of muscle that slid under the useful hide as she moved her arms. Earnest in the irises of lavender were the little black orifices of pupil, oiled with health, letting his own image through to the invisible rods and cones.”

The mystery itself is ok, although the story is more of a crime story than a mystery. I was able to guess who had done it by halfway in, and I kept expecting there to be some huge twist - right up to the last page I was waiting for it, but no. Your suspicions are confirmed by three quarters in and that’s it in regards to mystery. No plot twist , no shock revelations, the rest of the book is just spent tying up. Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by too many Agatha Christies but for me this was just a bit disappointing.
August 7, 2020
Lucille Hanson, tired of her unfaithful husband, Kelsey, asks for a divorce. They live in Florida in the 1950’s. Kelsey and Lucille agree to a year separation, but during that year she begins a relationship with a real estate investor named Sam Kimber. Before Lucille can tell Kelsey that she wants to proceed with the divorce, despite being an excellent swimmer, she drowns in a local lake.

Lucille’s sister, not convinced her sisters drowning was a suicide or accidental, hires a private investigator who starts interviewing that knew Lucille.

The characters are developed to the point that the reader can understand why they have done what they’ve done, the plot is strong, the wording is excellent, the descriptions not overdone.

A side note for me is that the self-made land developer Sam Kimber is such an interesting character that he could carry an entire book on his own.

Profile Image for Virginia Cruz.
139 reviews185 followers
November 4, 2022
How do I even start? This book is so weird. I was finding quite difficult to keep up with all the stories. A kind of sleazy guy, a kind of wanna be detective, the confused sister of the victim, the secretary, the IRS guy and maybe a murder caused by a tax fraude? I was uninterested and a bit bored. But when it hit the 65% mark, WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT???
I did not see that coming AT ALL.
Just loved the plot twist. Loved how the build up to it came to be. Loved how it all ended.
In the end it turned out to be a much more complex book (and character) than what it's expected in this kind of book.
Great read. Will definitely consider more books from him.
However I would only recommend for those who are junkies of murder mysteries. It's a niche book.
Really outdated language and all that jazz.
Profile Image for Hitessh.
422 reviews25 followers
July 29, 2020

The book is fast paced and grips you till the end.

Though one can easily figure out the way murder happened and whodunit. Still, the author does not fail to grip you for single moment.

It seems to be bit confusing in the beginning, with introduction of too many characters, but once you are in the flow, it eases you.

Read this as, this book was referenced in Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson.

GoodReads !!!
Profile Image for Amy.
328 reviews11 followers
April 29, 2020
This was my first John D MacDonald novel and definitely won't be my last. I had read the novel Eight Perfect Murders and one of the Perfect Murders was this book.Now, it really didn't turn out to be perfect and I won't say why, but the writing was superb. I could actually see it play out in my head, like a movie, which I don't know if it was or not. Excellent read.

This was my first John D MacDonald novel and definitely won't be my last. I had read the novel Right Perfect Murders and one of the Perfect Murders was this book.Now, it really didn't turn out to be perfect and I won't say why, but the writing was superb. I could actually see it play out in my head, like a movie, which I don't know if it was or not. Excellent read.
25 reviews
March 4, 2020
I have an affection for John D. MacDonald. He was a man of his times, however. He was a great observer of people, but his women characters are a often attracted to unlikely older men and his 19 year-olds talk like disaffected 40 year-old divorcees. That's pretty much true through the entire Travis McGee series. And his 40 to 50 year-old male characters truly believe that they can best help women in transitional situations like divorce or death of a spouse through good-hearted f***ing. The mystery here is interesting, the characters are well-drawn but the sexual politics and pairings can be predicted because, well, it's John D. MacDonald.
Profile Image for Rob Smith, Jr..
1,119 reviews17 followers
February 24, 2016
2016 marks 100 years since John D. MacDonald was born. I decided to dip back into the books, mostly read 30+ years ago. Delighted to not recognize many of the books, as is the case with 'The Drowner'.

This is another of MacDonald's books set in Florida, 30 miles south of Ocala. The environs are far less described as is typical MacDonald. However, the setting is more than well depicted for the time of 1960 in north Central Florida.

The story is a great mystery that might just get you not at all sure as to if or who might have drowned a character. The plotting, I feel, is extremely well done. This is a tricky tale that MacDonald handled expertly. The characters are very well detailed.

The biggest draw back is MacDonald again flogging a subject he irrationally despised. That is the greatest disappointment of the book.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 8 of ten points.
Profile Image for Lovely.
233 reviews1 follower
May 6, 2020
I'd give this a 3.5 because it did have some interesting murders, but it is definitely written by a man~ every description of a woman was so intensely awkward I was just cringing reading it and in the end couldn't really imagine what he was even describing so every female character just seemed like a tangled mass of shapes... other than that, it was fine, but I feel like it would make a better movie than a book with how it was paced and how distracting the writing got at times. The murderer wasn't too hard to predict, either, and gave off real Stephen King vibes with
Profile Image for Priyanka.
108 reviews14 followers
March 31, 2020
This is how you write a good mystery and a great detective novel .This is the first John D. Macdonald novel I have read and surely it won’t be the last. Now whenever I hit the recurring thriller/mystery slump, which is so common after one devours the modern bestsellers lists, I will turn to a Macdonald novel to shake me out of one.

The story is simply about a drowning victim, Lucille Hanson –but was it a murder, a suicide or a simple accident?
We are introduced to Paul Stanial, a world-weary investigator with a moral compass, sickened by the usual cheating/divorce cases and the Florida excesses he is surrounded with. Barbara ,Lucille’s sister, who is trying to figure how it all happened . Sam Kimber ,a man in love, trying to survive his loss as well as get out of a tax evasion scam. Kelsey Hanson ,the husband ,a typical drunk womanizing trust fund swinger. Angie ,the prim uptight secretary of Sam and my favorite Doctor Nile…hah!

I absolutely love the metaphorical comparison between the drowning of the victim as well as the other main characters. Everyone is drowning in one way or another; Paul is drowning in his job & the surrounding excesses, Barbara is drowning from her cheap affair with a married man .Angie is drowning in her religious upbringing. Sam is drowning in tax troubles while Kelsey is drowning in booze and entanglements of privilege.

This book is quite wordy ,the characters go on long rampages of loquaciousness and the narrative structure even suddenly changes towards the end . But it’s all done in the best possible manner ,keeping the reader engrossed with the wonderful mystery , genuine character studies, all mixed with a social commentary for that time period.

I simply loved this book ,I could write essays on the dialogues and the characters .The Drowner by John D. Macdonald is an all time favorite .
Profile Image for Candida.
1,027 reviews36 followers
June 6, 2020
Four and a half stars

I picked up this book because it was mentioned by one of my favorite thriller authors in his last book. The storyline behind this book was unlike anything I have ever read. The writing style is so unique. I got lost in the magic of the description of each character. I don't the word's to describe the writing. This author is super talented I plan on reading a lot more of his books.
Profile Image for Ruthiella.
1,439 reviews48 followers
August 24, 2020
This was the last book I “had” to read in preparation for Eight Perfect Murders. It is super short – the kindle version I read was only 160 pages. Sure, the book is dated and occasionally icky (first published in 1963), but the plot was interesting.

Lucille Hanson drowns in a lake in Florida. There was no one around for miles when she drown and the coroner is convinced it was an accident. Only Lucille’s younger sister, Barbara, isn’t so sure. She hires a private detective to look into it: Lucille’s rich but sleazy, estranged husband, her older gangster-ish lover, the good ol’ boy tax attorney… Investigator Paul Stanial takes the case as an antidote to the usual divorce case cheater work he does and gets more than he bargained for…
Profile Image for Jenny.
1,769 reviews38 followers
April 26, 2021
It was fine, and I tried to read it as much for the characters as much as the mystery based on the glowing introduction by Dean Koontz. I liked the setting (Florida) and that felt very real to me. But the book itself (I felt) doesn't really age well, especially with the character of Angie. Lots of bad behavior from all characters. It's not a long book but I still took a break because it wasn't compelling to me.
511 reviews69 followers
April 5, 2021
I've read all of the Travis McGee novels, so I'm used to the author's philosophizing and psychoanalysis of characters and society in general. But this was too much. The book was awful and I highly recommend that you skip it if at all possible.
105 reviews
October 31, 2019
Is The Drowner the precursor to the Travis McGee novels?
The first McGee novel, The Deep Blue Good-By was published the year after The Drowner.
Similarities? Of course they are both set in Florida and feature MacDonald's musings on the state of the world. What really interested me was that The Drowner features a private investigator who works for a big company. He is investigating the drowning of a young woman and to get people to open up to him he poses as an insurance investigator. This is such a Travis McGee approach to an investigation.
The novel itself is a good mystery. There are lots of interesting characters, and although we know it must have been a murder, it is not obvious whodunnit.
And for a novel first published in 1963 it has a lot of discussion about sex and free love. There is even a subplot involving a group involved in partner swapping. And we have MacDonald's thoughts on sex in 1963 America: "The Puritan heritage says that sex is nasty. Life says sex is constructive fun. So we go around smirking, sneaking, making it a nasty mystery. The most sex-conscious, sex-oppressed nation in history."
Overall, I consider this a good mystery and a good John D MacDonald novel, that is especially of interest to Travis McGee fans.
Profile Image for Sarah Flaming.
54 reviews1 follower
April 7, 2022
I really enjoyed this quick murder mystery…. I really liked the authors writing style. It was unique and gave each character an interesting voice. I will say that the story certainly could have used a little more character development, but that would have made it a much longer book. The brevity of the novel makes you feel like you are just peeking in at the characters at a moment in time, so of course there is still some mystery to who they all are, really.
Profile Image for وائل المنعم.
Author 1 book413 followers
August 28, 2013
A bad crime novel, shallow characters, Boring, silly description of people and events, modest language, a complete disaster.
Profile Image for wally.
2,376 reviews
December 22, 2014
19 dec 14, friday noon plus 47
this will be #10 from macdonald for me...just finished The End of the Night...a story i was tempted to mark as a favorite...might still do that. this macdonald guy was unreal...all these stories...and i haven't been disappointed yet. a few, i thought a character was off...or something about their nature didn't ring true.

and more than a few...three? more?...there has been at least one element that made me wonder why it was in the story...wondered how it got past the editorial process. maybe that's like the flaw in the rug...so as not to offend someone...marvin maybe...up there on mars.

the drowner (1963)...begins:
one day after it was all over, after it was ended and done and there was no going back to change any part of it, paul stanial realized, checking the dates, that he and the hanson woman had gone swimming on the same day, at the same hour, over a hundred miles apart, and had walked from the same noontime simmer of may in florida, across sand into coolness. but on that day he had never heard of her, or even of the grove-country lake in which she died that day.

okay then...a detective story...cue p.j. harvey...

time, place, scene, setting
may in florida...dayker's lake now called flamingo lake...don't get a sense of what town it is...not definitive, not yet...although there are trips for characters to jacksonville, ocala, hallandale, lakeland, lauderdale.
* beachscape motel, cabana g...where geoffrey hangs
* an air-conditioned bar down the street
* the dated girl's apartment on the mainland
* kelsey hanson's boathouse on lake larra
* sam kimber has a 'shack' on beetle creek
* doctor rufus nile's offices
* the jacksonville hotel room of augustus dumas gable
* citrus central bank & trust
* sam kimber's offices in town: sam-kim construction company, kimberland enterprises, kitty-kim groves
* a lunchroom/counter
* a small pink cinder block house...of willard maple
* orangeland motel
* the old carey place on lemon street...where lucille was staying
* ernies place, happy lanes (bowling)
* tyler street...burned out building...playground of southwest school
* pond at sam kimber's place...out state road 920...garner corners
* scotty's marine...scuba tanks get tended to here
* a downtown tavern

characters major minor peripheral
* paul stanial: our hero...works for a detective agency, former cop, wants more than divorce work and gets it...he is from michigan, he lost an older brother, joe, who was a hero and he tried to live up to the standard joe set. he also lost a wife...to divorce, sounds like, though that word is never used, not once...to page 72 of 159...and she is in kerrville, texas, janey her name, married again, with kids and goat
* lucille larrimore hanson: goes for a swim and is found drowned...suicide or murder or accident? she was 27, separated from kelsey hanson
* geoffrey rogers, soft beefy youngish man from bloomfield hills, michigan...married money...screwing around w/a hostess from a detroit club...paul's assignment
* the blonde hostess
* "mr & mrs r. jeffries of lansing" alias that geoffrey and the blonde use at the beachscape motel, cabana g
* kippler & charlie, co-workers of paul's
* girl he knew slightly...paul dates one night...on kippler's advice
* habad korody, an old musician staying with kelsey hanson on lake larra, brings hanson the news that he needs to go downtown
* shirley feldman, 19-year-old that is fornicating with kelsey hanson in his boathouse when he gets the news that his estranged wife is dead
* debbie...a friend of shirley's
* kelsey hanson: married to lucille hanson, though they are trying a one-year trial separation...he is a 30-year-old
* harvey "harv" walmo: sheriff
* sam kimber: 47-year-old, has been active with lucille, she retrieved bags/goods from two places, pensacola and waycross for him, he has been having tax problems, is trying to work those problems out through his attorney/cpa gus. his wife kitty has passed on...he has growed children, yes, that's right, growed
* stu and lorna keaver...macdonald does not use the word, but they are swingers...and kelsey is too...but lucille was not
* old john hanson...kelsey's old man
* jason "jase" and bonny yates...friends of the keavers', kelsey's
* charlie best...sam kimber got the word from him that lucille is dead
* augustus "gus" gable: 42-year-old, tax attorney/cpa, representing sam kimber's interests...tax problems, his 'persecution'
* mrs. martha carey...lucille's landlord
* angie powell: receptionist, secretary for sam kimber...he tried to throw the make on her...no go...she is 6' tall and righteous
* miss barbara lattimore: 25-yr-old, sister of lucille lattimore hanson...their mother is ill, invalid almost...their aunt jen has helped since their father died when they were young...aunt jen is their father's sister...she hired paul stanial to learn the truth about her sister's death...she suspects murder.
* pansy decorator from orlando...for sam kimber's place
* mrs nimmits...works in sam's offices
* harridan mother, mary is her name, mary powell...tiny father, jimmy powell, worked at the post office for 26 years, angela "angie" powell's parents
* ian fleming...private eye maloney...henry james, mona lisa, well-known names floated through story
* crocker-gain...funeral
* doctor rufus nile...gives paul stanial the run-down on some of the people in the story
* bert dell- coroner
* willie sutton...one of gus's aliases...or name used to relay who is calling w/o saying who is calling
* clarence...a man gus calls
* charlie diller...banker at citrus central bank & trust
* diller's girl/secretary
* mrs. suey brye...lives on the lake same as sam...others keavers, hanson
* walter ennie, lucille's lawyer
* willard maple...wife peg...man who raised alarm about possible drowning on flamingo lake...they have 3 kids
* pete and em...peg's sister is em...they were there w/willard & peg at lake. they have one child
* gas station people...ambulance people
* some tourist lady (imaginary) flinging out a magazine
* a swede from st. pete
* brunner & mccabe in orlando...people who could replace gus
* tampa money...old boy
* abercrombie & fitch
* richter, sam had an app't in lakeland w/him
* mccabe/bruner...app't
* reisman...something about outer-directed man...schweitzer...graham greene...a time when the narration gets metaphysical/philosophical
* george & nina furrbritt...the orgy party at beach-house
* coop & sis toombs...at the orgy beach pool party beach-house
* linda. ..alma...jeannie...stephanie (angie goes bowling w/these girls)
* joan...as in joan-of-arc
* roger...some guy that barbara almost did this almost did that...married, 3 kids
* a man and woman arguing...that barbara saw from the 3rd floor...(past)
* hostess...and a waitress...at restaurant...the waitress is clara wikely
* last three patients...of doc
* little boy in the neighborhood
* lady doctor in orlando...for female problems...angie
* the girl who was doing the billing
* adult male...in the photograph...anatomically correct...nakkid...but angie sees otherwise
* an old boy in miami...one character telling another (past)
* retired folks
* scotty...of scotty's marine
* pete...deputy sheriff
* henry/billy...other deputies
* county commissioners...state's attorney...new people

links in the chain
said this was macdonald #10 for me...and i've begun to notice like-kind exchanges...things that happen/appear in one story, reappear in another...and this one is...what? what would you call it? an echo? since i read the other story first? a foreshadowing? what? and does it matter. we'll call them links.

in this one sam kimber is telling his cpa/attorney about a magazine that some tourist lady flung from her car. a bathroom ad in the magazine was inspiration for sam...follow suit...fancy bath. the link is to the last story i read, said it was The End of the Night...and in that one the wolf pack are heading down the highway...looking for adventure...and nanette has purchased magazines for the ride and after looking through them she drops them out the window. heh!

that image was so startling in the story...and here it is again. so whud you think happened? john d macdonald out walking and a car goes by, a magazine comes fluttering out a window to land at his feet? whud? a link. the image lasts...don't think i'll soon forget it.

a curious word usage
one time...a character walrused his face in cold water...finishing shaving. p 76 of 159

update, finished, 20 dec 14, saturday morning
finished. three-stars. this is a good story. but it is borderline...parody...and it is not trying to be parody...and perhaps it would have worked better as a parody. i'm talkin' the religious angle here...our bad man has some serious issues...i think i'd have liked the story more if macdonald hadn't had his bad man a religious caricature. yeah, we've all heard the tales...about the voices...sin good evil the devil made me do it. and yes, religion has been, is now, and will be used to justify all manner of harm to others. but here...it borders on the 'toonish...but macdonald wasn't trying to be 'toonish...this is a serious attempt and it is not easy to look, to read this as serious. so i hazard it would have gone over better as grotesque, as parody, as southern gothic, throw a bit of flannery o'connnor/harry crews into the mix. as it stands now, it it insulting.

what i mean is...we know the zombies are taught not to denigrate the different. this is our culture. except...we also know that there are some that it is okay to denigrate...white trash, red-necks, "tea-party types"...christians of the less-than-salty flavor. the bad man here is just barely believable.

what else? early on...i had an image of the characters...their age. the male characters, i'm making a note of their age...females, too. the portraits were not clear to me. the image changed as the story progressed. sam kimber. i had this idea that he was...ummm, older than the story evolution made him out to be. ummmm...there was this party at the beach-house of one of the characters. turns into an orgy. heh! and this one clown...i dunno...i s'pose things were probably like that, thinking back on the old black and white movies, television shows from ago. virile he-man grabs the female and she tilts her head back, charmed. heh!

still...all-in-all an okay story. there's flaws here...and we ought to treasure those things...the man wasn't infallible. everything that glitters is not gold. there was this once when kelsey starts calling barb "lu"...made no sense...or little sense. not sure what to make of that. imagine a fly-fisherman, not having much luck, tying one on the leader the tossing it out there...see if anything bites. maybe that's what was happening?

Profile Image for Katie.
297 reviews22 followers
April 30, 2022
3.5 almost edging up to a 4. 3.75? 3.75.
This rating, for what it's worth, is for the plot, not the writing.

MacDonald's writing here has a few glimmers of greatness mixed in with a lot of what I can only describe in the year of our lord 2022 as, well, bizarre.
Dean Koontz wrote the foreward in the version I read and was so effusive with praise about MacDonald's writing that it made me glad I've never read Koontz, to be honest.

This definitely felt like it was written by a man in the 1960s, because it was. The amount of attention paid to women's (often "round") body parts was far too much for my taste, but I chalk that up to this book being a product of its time.
Definitely not an author I'd seek out for his style, and there were some chunks of text that felt like head scratchers to me because I just did not get what he was referencing (or what he was saying was so obtuse or bizarre I just had to move past it). But I was born 24 years after this was published, so some of that is just kind of the nature of the beast.

Onto the actual plot, I had a guess at the guilty party about 60% of the way in and was proven correct pretty shortly thereafter, but the admission of why and how it all shook out was still super intriguing and kept me on the edge of my seat for the last few chapters of the book. Well, the "why" was something I guessed at, but seeing it actually unfold was kind of.. grotesquely fascinating. Like a slow motion train wreck that started picking up speed as soon as I started watching.
That's a bad metaphor, but whatever.

I had never heard of this author or this book until a few weeks ago (a week ago? I really went hard on this "challenge" quickly) when I first heard about the Eight Perfect Murders "challenge," in which you read the eight murder mysteries whose plots are mentioned and spoiled in the book Eight Perfect Murders before then reading that book itself.

I don't even know if Eight Perfect Murders is a good book, but I have loved that it's forcing me to read old mysteries that I would never have heard of (or thought to read) otherwise.
I already had The Secret History on my list for this year, and would have eventually gotten around to The ABC Murders, but I can only assume that Double Indemnity and The Drowner (among the others on the list) would never have crossed my path.

Anyway. There were parts of the book that essentially led to nothing and it felt slooooooow for a 160-page book, but overall I would say this was pretty well plotted. Even though at times I was rolling my eyes, the latter half(ish) of the book really ramps things up and I'm glad I stuck it out.

ATY 2022: #29 - A book set on or near a body of water
Eight Perfect Murders "Challenge" - #2 of 9
Author 46 books76 followers
September 12, 2020
Četl jsem to v třikrátce Zelená knižnice, která to postavila vážně zvláštně. Jasně, vždycky je problém, jak udělat třikrátku, ale málokdy je kniha postavená tak devolučně jako tady. Začíná to Travisem McGeem (Purple Place for Dying, kterého jsem hodnotil extra), čili v podstatě MacDonaldem v jeho finální a nejlepší podobě. A pak se vrací zpátky a pouští do jeho sólových věcí bez výrazných hrdinů a ukazuje, jaký je mezi tím kvalitativní rozdíl. Travisem autor opravdu našel postavu, která mu sedla, která působí dospěle a přesvědčivě a které se podařilo dodnes nezestárnout. Ostatní věci takovou kliku neměly.
Cena za vraždu (Price of Murder) je zajímavá tím, že sleduje několik postav, které se točí kolem jednoho velkého kšeftu. Zajímavé a dynamické pojetí, které se teprve později stalo běžnou metodou – ale tady to bohužel směřuje k bezvýraznému finále. Moderní způsob vyprávění se tu střetává s archaickým příběhem a moralizováním a kontrast mezi tím je gigantický.
Dohodnout se se žralokem (Drowner) je ještě horší. V centru je soukromý detektiv, který dokáže okamžitě posoudit a odsoudit lidi. Postavy jsou tu všeobecně hysterické a tenhle příběh zastaral tím víc, jak se točí kolem erotiky. Na jednu stranu jsou tu lidé, co žijí v celibátu a na druhou stranu zvrhlíci holdující neřízenému sexu a orgiím… což fakt už působí komicky. Pachatel není ani moc dobře maskovaný – v podstatě hned v první scéně, ve který je představený, je mezi koníčky označeno potápění. A jelikož se oběť záhadně utopila…
Na druhou stranu má kniha poměrně zajímavé finále, kdy autor pořádně šlape na plyn, přitvrzuje a přináší i zajímavý finální střet. Ovem to už je na probuzení pozdě.
Ale i tak – je to spíš dobré, aby si člověk uvědomil, jak obrovsky důležité je pro autora najít si tu správnou postavu, ten správný styl. Mezi knihami Drowner a prvním McGeem je jen jeden rok. A rozdíl je nedozírný.

Profile Image for Ryann.
163 reviews47 followers
April 24, 2022
“I thought I was so unique. And any situation I got into would be special because it was me. But instead, I got into one of the most ordinary, tiresome situations in the world.”

An odd one, and a book I still need some time to process. The drowner, and the reveal of her halfway through the book, was fairly surprising and well done. The writing, while sometimes overwrought, could be beautiful and put very well. It was the themes of the book, and the mid 60s preoccupation with female sexuality, that are hard to move around. It felt gross and misjudged (particularly in the lengthy descriptions of the female body), but I also felt like there was something of worth there, whether conscious or not, about the way that women’s bodies are regulated and punished by a society that demands they’re either a virgin, or a whore. Lucille, as proud and upstanding as she tried to be, was branded as a whore, and punished in the eyes of a gossiping community, and a religious zealot. Barbara felt caught between her sexuality and her morals, and in the nebulous space, was unable to find her footing. Angie, traumatized and confused, was not only a virgin, but reduced to an animal—to strong for any of the men around her to control and, in turn, too dangerous. I’m probably looking a lot further into it than MacDonald did, but it’s interesting, and it’s something I’ll be thinking about for a while now.

Read as prep for Eight Perfect Murders.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jane.
2,036 reviews31 followers
September 8, 2020
The Drowner is one of the books mentioned in Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson.

Even though I knew the secret of the primary murder, I still got pulled in to the story. Gritty, stylized, atmospheric, sexist. The murder is original but the motive, not so much.

"It's a - what would you call it? - fragmented society. In one way or another, except for some of the oldest families out along Lake Larra, and a few old ones in town and some of the grove money, everybody is a come-lately. It's growing fast and changing fast. Not for the better. County population twice what it was ten years ago. The lines are vague. I guess there aren't any towns any more the way there used to be. Just shopping centers with houses around them." (p. 87)

"There are always stages, you know. It started with liking. With friendship. Working in the same place all day, laughing at the same things. So you explore points of view, and find so much alike it turns into wistful romantic love, all very bittersweet and sad because you know you can't do anything about it. And the whole city turns into a sort of foreign film, so that even the way the birds fly has artistic significance." (p. 216)

I'm glad I've read it.

(Please note the ebook is NOT 160 pages. It's 295.)
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