Dolly and the Bird of Paradise (Johnson Johnson #6)
Also known as Tropical IssueThe narrator is a Scots-born flower child who has become a celebrity make-up artist despite seemingly insurmountable handicaps. She becomes involved with Johnson Johnson in a sometimes deadly, sometimes hilarious, romp across the Atlantic Ocean and various Caribbean islands in pusuit of drug smugglers, who use murder and piracy to gain their ends.

Dolly and the Bird of Paradise (Johnson Johnson #6) Details

TitleDolly and the Bird of Paradise (Johnson Johnson #6)
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 12th, 1984
PublisherKnopf
ISBN-139780394523774
Rating
GenreMystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Contemporary, Spy Thriller, Espionage, Crime

Dolly and the Bird of Paradise (Johnson Johnson #6) Review

  • Lois Bujold
    January 1, 1970
    Well, hm.Page turner, good writing and exciting set pieces, great though somewhat unreliable narrator's voice, suitably quirky and well-drawn cast of characters, but it seemed to fall apart for me at the end due to a pile-up of a few too many twists and revelations and palmed cards. Ideally, such surprises should be greeted by the reader with an "Oh, wow!" not a "Say what...?"I would have to read it again to see if it really all made as little sense as it seemed, which I am not quite on for just Well, hm.Page turner, good writing and exciting set pieces, great though somewhat unreliable narrator's voice, suitably quirky and well-drawn cast of characters, but it seemed to fall apart for me at the end due to a pile-up of a few too many twists and revelations and palmed cards. Ideally, such surprises should be greeted by the reader with an "Oh, wow!" not a "Say what...?"I would have to read it again to see if it really all made as little sense as it seemed, which I am not quite on for just now. We'll see.I have read about three others in this series so far, which has an interesting structure. In each case we follow a different heroine, who has an encounter with our painter-yachtman hero in the course of his undercover work and who gets drawn in to the assorted chicanery. We never see his viewpoint, though he proves the mastermind behind much of the action. I vaguely recall all the others were first-person narratives as well. Of all the heroines so far, I liked Rita, here, quite the best.Recommended with reservations. I may end up reading the rest to round out whatever I can piece together of the hero's backstory, and see if it adds up to a story-arc in its own right. This is another series with reading-order challenges -- the biter bit, perhaps, in my case -- but that's what Wikipedia is for, I suppose.This book has been reissued with a new title, Tropical Issue, which is found on the Kindle edition. (I had an old 1983 hardcover out of my local library.)Ta, L.
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  • John
    January 1, 1970
    Rita Geddes -- from Troon in Scotland -- is a dyslexic punk who's made her way up to become one of the best-regarded makeup artists in the world. Her friendship with flamboyantly randy photographer Ferdy Braithwaite brings her into the ambits of enigmatic portrait painter and undercover government agent Johnson Johnson and public intellectual/documentary-maker Natalie Sheridan. Soon Rita (who tells the story) finds herself in the midst of an adventure involving murder, drug-running and who knows Rita Geddes -- from Troon in Scotland -- is a dyslexic punk who's made her way up to become one of the best-regarded makeup artists in the world. Her friendship with flamboyantly randy photographer Ferdy Braithwaite brings her into the ambits of enigmatic portrait painter and undercover government agent Johnson Johnson and public intellectual/documentary-maker Natalie Sheridan. Soon Rita (who tells the story) finds herself in the midst of an adventure involving murder, drug-running and who knows what else that takes her to Madeira and then the West Indies, where she and her friends, aboard Johnson's luxury yacht, Dolly, must face down a hurricane, pirates and gangsters . . .Published in 1983 by Dunnett under her maiden name, Dorothy Halliday, this was the first, according to internal chronology, of the seven books in her Dolly/Johnson Johnson mystery series, even though the sixth to be published. I gather that each of the novels has a different narrator; what tie them together are the character of Johnson and the yacht. The books have been variously retitled; although I read this as Dolly and the Bird of Paradise it is perhaps better known under the (re)title Tropical Issue. I can remember seeing some of the Dolly novels in the bookstores when they came out in paperback, way back when, but I don't think at the time I connected Dorothy Halliday to Dorothy Dunnett. I'm also pretty certain I never read any of them, but who can tell.I do know I'm unlikely to read any more of them after this experimental exploration. The narration (by Rita) of Dolly and the Bird of Paradise has a sort of relentless lightness, a determined flippancy that soon becomes wearing. The plot itself is pretty ramshackle, with at least one longish episode seeming to be, so to speak, an out-take that Dunnett couldn't bear to throw away even though it led nowhere. I'm also not quite clear as to why the criminal conspirators chose to wear animal masks as disguises for their meetings when they all knew who the others were.I was also unconvinced by Rita's Scottishness, despite occasional Scotticisms (most commonly the use of the adjective "wee") stuck into the text to keep us reminded, not to mention references to her aunt in Troon. The oddity here is that Dunnett was herself Scottish (as indeed am I); you'd have thought she could have done a better Scot. In other respects, to be fair, I found the characterization of Rita quite credible.The novel is also scarred by a sort of off-handed racism. There's nothing that's outright repulsive -- nothing that made me throw the book at the wall -- just stuff at the level where, were this a 1930s or even a 1950s novel, one would grimace and shrug at the benighted attitudes of the past. But this isn't a 1930s or 1950s novel: to encounter descriptions like "darkies" and "wogs" in a book from the mid-1980s comes as something of a jolt, and not a pleasant one.I'm well aware that some people enjoy the Dolly series a great deal, but for various reasons this book rubbed me up the wrong way. I don't regret the experiment, but I'll not be repeating it.
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  • Leah
    January 1, 1970
    Started out great, I love the modern 90s-woman detective. Short hair, spiky attitude, fierce fashion, really good at her job. Like Anabel Donald's Alex Tanner, like Stella Duffy's Saz Martin, like a whole bunch of 90s feminist private detectives that I'm only just learning about now. Then we reached approximately page 200 and the suspects were only just introduced, and it began to drag. Dunnett is best known for her sweeping historical fiction, and I think she forgot to leave the 'sweeping' at t Started out great, I love the modern 90s-woman detective. Short hair, spiky attitude, fierce fashion, really good at her job. Like Anabel Donald's Alex Tanner, like Stella Duffy's Saz Martin, like a whole bunch of 90s feminist private detectives that I'm only just learning about now. Then we reached approximately page 200 and the suspects were only just introduced, and it began to drag. Dunnett is best known for her sweeping historical fiction, and I think she forgot to leave the 'sweeping' at the door for her detective stories. The plotting was so bogged down in following the timeline and leaving nothing out that she forgot to keep the reader engaged with, you know, a modicum of empathy for the victim or the other characters. Or clues.And I suspect Dunnett may veer slightly into Allingham territory when it comes to 'simpering affection for her own detective', who is not Our Heroine, but rather a distant and irritating Man in Spectacles who knows too much and Owns a Boat.I could barely care enough to finish it, even it reached its denouement in one of my favourite styles: emergency situation where Our Heroes are trapped and forced to confront each other in an emergency situation and also rescue others, inevitably leading to both the Revelation of the Murderer, and a Significant Death. See also The Nine Tailors.
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  • Andrea
    January 1, 1970
    Dunnett's strength in this series is the interesting and unusual protagonists. This one is a makeup artist, with punk-styled hair, and dyslexia (along with an auditory processing disorder and also an odd tendency to use incorrect words in speech such as castle instead of campaign, etc).Rita is determined, highly independent and very good at her job. She has career ambitions, and won't be pushed around. Nor will she just let it lie when a good friend is murdered.Over-all a well told story, althou Dunnett's strength in this series is the interesting and unusual protagonists. This one is a makeup artist, with punk-styled hair, and dyslexia (along with an auditory processing disorder and also an odd tendency to use incorrect words in speech such as castle instead of campaign, etc).Rita is determined, highly independent and very good at her job. She has career ambitions, and won't be pushed around. Nor will she just let it lie when a good friend is murdered.Over-all a well told story, although some of Dunnett's (or the era's) problematic points are in strong display. Some of the language is mildly racist. There is an instance of black face (and terrible islander patois). And there are all the attempted assaults and rapes.This book has the most by far of the Johnson series, never taken to the point of actual rape (even in a situation where it strains belief that it didn't happen). Most problematic is that most of the assaults are "social". Men who are constantly feeling up or trying to coerce female acquaintances to have sex with them. In particular, good friends of the protagonist do this, constantly, as in:As ever, we had a fair struggle, and then as ever he took No for an answer...And, as ever, I wonder "why the hell do you consider this person a friend"?
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  • Joy
    January 1, 1970
    Another treasure from Dorothy Dunnett. Rita Geddes, leading makeup artist, is extraordinary from the top of her spiky blue-and-orange hair to the tips of her clever fingers. Lovely white yacht Dolly will never be the same after taking feisty Rita aboard.We travel from London to Madeira to the Caribbean, trailing the badly shattered artist-yachtsman Johnson Johnson, an exotic photographer, an animal trainer plus parrots and gerbils, and the glamorous Curtis family, rich from making up the faces o Another treasure from Dorothy Dunnett. Rita Geddes, leading makeup artist, is extraordinary from the top of her spiky blue-and-orange hair to the tips of her clever fingers. Lovely white yacht Dolly will never be the same after taking feisty Rita aboard.We travel from London to Madeira to the Caribbean, trailing the badly shattered artist-yachtsman Johnson Johnson, an exotic photographer, an animal trainer plus parrots and gerbils, and the glamorous Curtis family, rich from making up the faces of Hollywood stars and movie casts. A string of collisions between these characters ends suspensefully during a West Indies hurricane.The deep, fascinating, and colorful Rita is unveiled gradually along with murders, attempted murders, and an international drug ring.
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  • Helen
    January 1, 1970
    Having read all of Dorothy Dunnett's six-volume Lymond Chronicles, eight-volume House of Niccolo series and her standalone novel, King Hereafter, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I picked up one of her Johnson Johnson mystery novels. I wasn't entirely sure that I was starting with the right book, as Tropical Issue (originally titled Dolly and the Bird of Paradise – Dolly being the name of Johnson's yacht and the 'bird' being the female narrator of the story) was actually the sixth t Having read all of Dorothy Dunnett's six-volume Lymond Chronicles, eight-volume House of Niccolo series and her standalone novel, King Hereafter, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I picked up one of her Johnson Johnson mystery novels. I wasn't entirely sure that I was starting with the right book, as Tropical Issue (originally titled Dolly and the Bird of Paradise – Dolly being the name of Johnson's yacht and the 'bird' being the female narrator of the story) was actually the sixth to be published. I had discovered, though, that it is also the first chronologically, so it seemed like a good place to start.Our narrator is Rita Geddes, a Scottish make-up artist with a punk hairstyle (the book was published in 1983 and I should point out here that unlike the rest of Dunnett's books, these were contemporary novels rather than historical ones). Rita's latest client is the journalist and celebrity Natalie Sheridan and at the beginning of the novel Rita is in London preparing Natalie for a photo shoot with the photographer, Ferdy Braithwaite. Ferdy has borrowed his friend Johnson Johnson's studio flat to use for the session and in this way, Rita meets Johnson for the first time. Not that she learns much about Johnson during this first meeting, other than that he is recuperating after being seriously injured in a plane crash – and that he is a portrait painter, has black hair and wears bifocal glasses.Joining Natalie for another job on the island of Madeira, Rita learns that the life of her friend and fellow make-up artist Kim-Jim Curtis could be in danger. And when Johnson and his yacht, Dolly, also arrive in Madeira, a mystery unfolds which is complex, surprising and takes the reader through a range of exotic locations from the banana plantations of Barbados to the volcanic craters of St Lucia. As with all good mystery novels, you'll need to pay attention as things which may seem irrelevant at first turn out to be important later in the book.I liked the character of Rita from the beginning. She has a very distinctive narrative voice, with her strong personality coming across in every sentence – how can you not love a character who thinks, when disturbed by an intruder in the night, "I rather wished I was wearing something handier than a quilt, but if all else failed, I could smother the guy if I caught him"? As for Johnson, it was difficult not to want to make comparisons with Dunnett's other heroes, Lymond, Nicholas and Thorfinn, but really, while they do all share some characteristics, there are also some big differences between them. However, I do think there were a lot of similarities in the way Dunnett introduces his character to us – viewing him only through the eyes of other people (in this case Rita), with his true thoughts and motives often being obscured and misinterpreted.While I love all of Dorothy Dunnett's other books, I can't really say that I loved this one – but I did enjoy it. It took me a while to really get into the story, but after a few chapters I was won over by a wild and wonderful sledge race to rival the ostrich ride in Niccolo Rising. It made a nice change, in a way, to be able to read a Dunnett novel without becoming too emotionally involved in the lives of the characters! I don't feel the same compulsion to immediately read the rest of the series as I did with Lymond and Niccolo, but it's good to know that there are still another six books to look forward to.
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  • Brittany
    January 1, 1970
    This book completely floored me. I knew that Dunnett was a masterful writer, adept at characterization, description, pacing, and plot. But I had no idea how versatile her tone was. In both the Lymond and the Niccolo books, she had a very erudite tone that aptly reflected the periods she wrote about. Apparently, she was a far more flexible writer than I had thought.Dolly and the Bird of Paradise begins, "To most of my clients, bifocal glasses are asthma. All those words are spelled correctly. I l This book completely floored me. I knew that Dunnett was a masterful writer, adept at characterization, description, pacing, and plot. But I had no idea how versatile her tone was. In both the Lymond and the Niccolo books, she had a very erudite tone that aptly reflected the periods she wrote about. Apparently, she was a far more flexible writer than I had thought.Dolly and the Bird of Paradise begins, "To most of my clients, bifocal glasses are asthma. All those words are spelled correctly. I looked them up." Thus, Dunnett introduces Rita Geddes, the protagonist of the book who possesses a wildly different voice, viewpoint, and set of skills than anyone in either of the Lymond or Niccolo worlds. This book is fast-paced, well-planned, and steeped in the sort of detail that only becomes significant hundreds of pages later. The mystery is so well-played that I didn't figure out anything until she revealed it to me. The characters are extremely well-drawn and sympathetic. All in all, this was an astonishing book. It's like getting an early Christmas present: There are six more of these!
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  • Vasilia
    January 1, 1970
    Loved it to bits, despite a) struggling to keep up with a wildly shifting plot, and b) Rita's dyslexia which meant she used wrong words for things and I didn't always pick up on it.Great character, definitely of the 80s - it confused me the first few times she mentioned striping her face, but apparently that was a thing. She's small and tough and deals with casual sexism in an odd but fair-enough kind of way. Did not guess the murderer and still am not entirely sure why they dunnit, but it was a Loved it to bits, despite a) struggling to keep up with a wildly shifting plot, and b) Rita's dyslexia which meant she used wrong words for things and I didn't always pick up on it.Great character, definitely of the 80s - it confused me the first few times she mentioned striping her face, but apparently that was a thing. She's small and tough and deals with casual sexism in an odd but fair-enough kind of way. Did not guess the murderer and still am not entirely sure why they dunnit, but it was a fun ride all the same.
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  • Mackay
    January 1, 1970
    For me, Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles rate among Best Books Ever; I knew she had some mysteries but had never found them--then, thank heavens for Kindle. Alternatively titled "Tropical Issue." Love how she can hide the ball in plain sight and keep things from the reader w/o this reader feeling cheated. A fun book.
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  • Sandra
    January 1, 1970
    This was the first of the Dolly/Johnson Johnson novels I read and I've lost count of how many times I've done so since. Which didn't prevent me feeling compelled to sit all day to devour it all over again, despite have half a memory of who were the baddies, who the goodies. Tension racks an already teasing story higher and higher with each succeeding page.
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  • Denise
    January 1, 1970
    I'm used to Dunnett making me work hard, but I thought her whodunnits would be easier. Granted, starting with the sixth in the series (because it was the only one available from interlibrary loan) adds to the learning curve, but the combination of mid-century British slang and the narrator's haphazard spelling made just deciphering the prose a challenge, never mind the plot.Still, it was fun. The runaway sledge, the sexy flowers, the peek at classic movie makeup effects and animal training, the I'm used to Dunnett making me work hard, but I thought her whodunnits would be easier. Granted, starting with the sixth in the series (because it was the only one available from interlibrary loan) adds to the learning curve, but the combination of mid-century British slang and the narrator's haphazard spelling made just deciphering the prose a challenge, never mind the plot.Still, it was fun. The runaway sledge, the sexy flowers, the peek at classic movie makeup effects and animal training, the hydrologic features of tropical islands, all Dunnett's patented mix of comedy, drama, characterization and education, even including a parrot. I'll read the others - if I can find them.
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  • Peter
    January 1, 1970
    Narrator is a dyslexic Scottish make up artist estranged from her father and siblings who are running a coke smuggling operation through a banana company. Felt like I was reading a book in a foreign language because most of the cultural references and a lot of the language went past me, but half the fun was figuring out what is going on in addition to trying to understand the whodunnit aspect of the book.
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  • Jean Bolan
    January 1, 1970
    Not sure if I will continue with the series. The main characters are interesting but it seems a little dated.
  • Nigel
    January 1, 1970
    I always did like Rita best of all the Dolly Birds - punkish, dyslexic make-up artist deeply unimpressed by JJ and his various ways. in the grand scheme of things she meets him not long after the 'plane crash' which killed his wife and left him a mess, so he's not at his best. Still, though, this voyage some things don't sit quite right, such as Rita's apparent homophobia (it's probably just her resentment at JJ being expressed through the casual contemporary homophobic language because of the s I always did like Rita best of all the Dolly Birds - punkish, dyslexic make-up artist deeply unimpressed by JJ and his various ways. in the grand scheme of things she meets him not long after the 'plane crash' which killed his wife and left him a mess, so he's not at his best. Still, though, this voyage some things don't sit quite right, such as Rita's apparent homophobia (it's probably just her resentment at JJ being expressed through the casual contemporary homophobic language because of the sort of hilarious comic misunderstanding that were the primary utility of homosexuality in various forms of fiction at the time) and an incredibly cringey bit involving blackface and imitated pidgin dialect. Aside from that, there's a twisty complicated thriller involving murder and drug smuggling and assorted tropical islands, and it's all good fun and there's a brilliantly nasty and tense bit where they get hijacked on the edge of a tropical storm that's about to turn into a hurricane that's worth getting through the now-cringey bits.
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  • Sandra
    January 1, 1970
    Oh dear, totally different than the Lymond Chronicles but with typical Dunnett convoluted plotting and totally engrossing characters and humor. I laughed so hard in places my sides hurt. Other times I was totally blown away by the drama and danger.A Scottish make-up artist is hired by a high class journalist and goes from London to the West Indies in a convoluted murder/drug smuggling plot. She meets Johnson Johnson and his yacht Dolly.
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  • Catherine
    January 1, 1970
    I decided to read all Ms Dunnett's Johnson Johnson books in order, which meant that I had to read this one first. I've read this one before, as Dolly and the Bird of Paradise, and enjoyed it. This time was no different. A great mystery, and even though I'd read it before - admittedly a while ago - I had no idea of who the bad guy(s) were or why they'd killed Kim-Jim.Recommended for fans of great mysteries and interesting characters.
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  • RHL Staff
    January 1, 1970
    These mysteries are dated and maybe hard to find, but they are wonderful. I don't like mysteries, but I loed these.
  • Helen
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting mystery and intrigue
  • Susan Bloom
    January 1, 1970
    My favorite of the Johnson Johnson series, with the dyslexic make-up artist.
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