The Soft Touch by John D. MacDonald – review

the soft touch John D. MacDonaldJerry Jamison lives a quaint life. A steady job in construction under his father-in-law’s business. A gorgeous wife. A nice home in a nice neighbourhood. On the surface everything seems great – the American dream. But unfortunately for Jerry if you scratch a little deeper and everything becomes an absolute mess.

His job is boring and limiting; his father-in-law has antiquated ideas about construction that keep him working within a system that is stifling his creative output. His gorgeous wife is an alcoholic disaster who spends more time smashed than sober. His nice home was a wedding gift, one that Jerry feels shackles him to his in-laws who live only minutes away.

When Jerry’s old army buddy Vince shows up with an offer that gives Jerry the chance to shake things up he eventually agrees. Vince has been working as a solider of fortune in South America for the last few years, becoming heavily involved with some dangerous men who make a living doing dangerous things. He has come to learn of an opportunity where he can make a grab for a million dollars in untraceable cash that no one will ever report missing and all Jerry has to do to get a piece is drive the getaway car.

Like most good noir, nothing goes as planned (from the heist on) and a good guy doing a bad thing gets in over his head in no time flat.

It’s hard to discuss the other half of this plot without spoiling anything but suffice it to say that things only get worse for poor old Jerry.

I didn’t know anything about this book going into this other than the blurb on the back cover, which sadly doesn’t do this book justice in the least. Simply put, it gave a strong impression that this book was entirely about the robbery without ever mentioning any of the psychological drama that makes The Soft Touch as spectacular as it is.

This is one of the many times where I wish my skills as a reviewer (used incredibly loosely) were impeccable so I could sing The Soft Touch’s praises the way they ought to be sung.

Maybe it’s because I expected to be bored out of my gourd or maybe it’s that the only MacDonald I had read prior (The Executioner’s) didn’t do anything for me at all, but The Soft Touch floored me and made me completely reconsider reading more MacDonald.


This is a part of the 200 noirs project. An attempt to read and review every book on Allan Guthrie’s Top 200 Noirs list. You can follow him on Twitter @200Noirs

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Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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One comment

  1. This is one JDM I’ve never read. Have to look for it. Want me to send you a couple of Travis McGees? I have every one.

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