by Lawrence Block

Avon, March, 1996 $5.99
ISBN 0-380-72023

Series Character: Matt Scudder, unlicensed private investigator.

Review by Larry Jung
(Originally reviewed 8/94)

This is a transition book of sorts. Matt is getting his life together. He still handles his alcoholism one-day-at-a-time. His relationship with Elaine has developed into an important aspect of his life. Matt recognizes how important Elaine is to the new Matt Scudder. But he also has doubts whether either is ready to make further commitments. Both feel awkward about discussing living together, where to live, what to do next.

In the midst of Matt's emotional turmoil, he gets a case where a well-to-do man is gunned down in the street at a public pay phone close to his upscale apartment. A transitent is picked up for the murder, but Matt eventually clears him of the crime, but only after discovering the murdered man's secret.

Along the way, Matt has a brief and gulity-ridden affair with the murdered man's wife. Matt seeks her out as much as she does him for physical comfort. His motives are muddled. Is he being fair to Elaine or to the widow?

If questions of loyalty were not enough, Matt gets a call from Jan. She is a woman from Matt's past who was there for him when he needed a friend and now she wants him to get her a gun. She is dying and wants to control when she goes. This is a test of how strong is his friendship. He at first hesitates, but does get her a gun.

The Scudder series gets stronger with each succeeding book. Lawrence Block at this moment owns the title King of the P.I. books. His New York is the literary equal of Hammett's San Francisco and Chandler's L.A. This book like his last four will get rave reviews. For once, the reviews are right. Buy this book if you like crime fiction in particular and good writing in general. While you're at it, pick up A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES, A DANCE AT THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE, A TICKET TO THE BONEYARD, and OUT ON THE CUTTING EDGE.

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