Book review: “The Scarlet Ruse” by John D. MacDonald, “Mortal Fear” by Robin Cook and “Prey” series by John Sandford |

Book review: “The Scarlet Ruse” by John D. MacDonald, “Mortal Fear” by Robin Cook and “Prey” series by John Sandford

Sam Bauman

I came across three novels dealing with crime recently and found them all entertaining. First was John D. MacDonald’s “The Scarlet Ruse.”

McDonald was a very popular writer in the ‘70s and ’80s writing about a cranky houseboat man named Travis McGee, who lived by finding things for people who had lost them. He has a friend named Meyer, an economist by trade who brings him to a rare stamp dealer who has “misplaced” $400,000 on stamps in his trust.

At the same time McGee has been ordered to remove his houseboat from Fort Lauderdale environs in 30 days. It gets complicated when Mary Alice becomes involved. She’s a longtime assistant to the stamp dealer and knows all about the business and maybe where the $400,000 collection went.

This is superior thriller-crime writing by an author who included thoughts about conservation long before the subjects became topical.

You’ll probably have a problem finding this one but try the library. MacDonald was quite popular in his day before his death in 1986.

Robin Cook is a contemporary noted for his medical thrillers. In “Mortal Fear” he’s at the top of his game with Dr. Jason Howard as his hero. Howard works at GHP, a mammoth hospital where Howard finds out that patients who recently has a physical check up have been dying 30 days later.

It’s complicated by the death of another doctor who claimed to have made a major discovery, “ironic” he termed it. Cook follows the investigation and romances of Howard in a tight chase of knowledge. Readers will find out about such as recombinant DNA and the dangers therein.

Lots of complications about the GHP’s financial future with the grim idea of killing original investors because as they age they cost too much to treat.

Well written, “Mortal Fear” is gripping enough to make one worry about going to a hospital.

And then there’s John Sandford’s “Prey” collection of thrillers. He has some 30 novels all using the word “prey” In their titles.

In “Gathering Prey,” Porsche driving cop Lucas Davenport is dragged into the mystery deaths of indigent men. His daughter Letty befriends a young woman who is murdered at an outdoors gathering. Letty becomes involved and is badly beaten, triggering Davenport’s pursuit of a mystical terrorist leader.

The plot is tight, the emotions bare and the suspense nerve-wracking. Sandford is the glittering example to all copy desk rim rats that you can be a Pulitzer-winning journalist on the one hand and novelist on the other. All his “Prey” books prove it.

Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.