This is pre-Travis, early MacDonald. Jimmy Wing, a reporter for a small Florida daily has foreknowledge that beautiful Grassy Bay is about to be dredged by developers into a commercial/housing development. It just needs to be passed by the Board of Commissioners. This battle has been fought two years ago and defeated by the altruistic Save Our Bay organization. But this time, it isn't a wicked outside developers; it is a local consortium, and things look bleak for the S.O.B. contingent.
Jimmy spills the beans to young widow Kat Hubble who is all things demure and honorable. Jimmy is sucked into spying for the local power structure headed by delightful old rascal, Elmo Bliss. I was so taken with Elmo; I was almost rooting for him in spite of his very non-correct environmental stance. Elmo was one of the few whose motives were pure; he wanted power and went after it. Maybe he went a mite overboard, but you always knew what he was about. The Save Our Bay people were persecuted, blackmailed and put to rout. Those left standing were sadder and wiser.
The story is a slow starter, and creaks here and there, but MacDonald puts in a lot of work on the characterizations, particularly Jimmy. I saw a few stirrings of a pre-Travis McGee in Jimmy particularly in the latter chapters.
One of JDM's more serious efforts, a lot of environmental issues here.
I kept wanting Travis McGee to step in. A really good book about greedy despoilers.