Travis McGee checks up on the daughter of an old friend, only to find out the girl is in danger from her own husband. Pidge Brindle came to Travis with a suspicion. Her new husband, Howie, may be trying to kill her. Travis is skeptical at first, since he remembers Howie as a happy-go-lucky deckhand who helped out a lot of the regulars when he used to hang around the marina where Travis lives, in Florida.
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But he goes to Hawaii to help out anyway, since he owes his life to Pidge's father, professor Ted Lewellen. The late professor once intervened in a bar fight that Travis was losing badly. Ever since, Travis has known he owed Ted a favor.
Things start off strangely when Travis talks to Howie first. He tells Travis that Pidge has been suffering hallucinations. She thinks he's hidden some girl on their boat, and that she tried to kill herself one time when she fell into the water. When Travis meets Pidge for her side of the story, she tells him mostly the same thing, minus the part about her being crazy. Then she renews her teenage crush on Travis and seduces him into her bed.
Travis sees no reason the young couple can't work it out, Pidge's dalliance with him notwithstanding. So he gives them his blessing and they continue their cruise around the world. But then Travis gets to thinking, and he talks it over with his old pal Meyer, currently hospitalized.
A little digging leads Travis to a frightening conclusion: Ted's former attorney, Tom Collier, is trying to kill Pidge to get at her father's treasure-hunting research, and he's using Howie to do it. Years ago, Travis and Meyer went on an expedition with Professor Ted, where they located a sunken ship before bad weather and bad luck buried it for eternity. Rumors always swirled that Ted had the locations of other valuable shipwrecks waiting to be salvaged, but no one ever knew where or how.
Now Travis must rush to save Pidge. He tracks them down and has a confrontation with Howie, which he loses badly, having to fake his own death by pretending to drown when Howie holds him under water in a bathtub. He escapes and follows Howie to a gondola leading up a hillside, where Howie plans to throw Pidge and have her death ruled a suicide. They fight at the top of the hill, and when Howie almost loses his balance, he leaps and grabs hold of the cable leading downhill, only to be killed when he falls from the great height.
With Howie gone, Pidge and Travis resume their nascent romance. But the much older McGee is unsurprised when she falls for someone else. It was never meant to be, Travis tells a recuperating Meyer, as he returns to the marina and settles back into his regular life.
Best part of story, including ending:
Lot of intrigue in this novel, from gaslighting to treasure-hunting, which is always entertaining. Not to mention Travis McGee's philosophical asides, which ground the story back in reality.
Best scene in story:
Travis pretending to drown as Howie holds him underwater is a scene that will make any reader squirm, especially if you've ever watched someone do that in a movie and wondered whether you could fake your own death convincingly in the same scenario.
Opinion about the main character:
Travis McGee might be a little hard to relate to, since he does not have a job and lives on a boat, but his loyalty to his friends makes him the kind of person you'd want to get to know better.