After a hiatus of more than six years, Lawrence Block has produced a new Matt Scudder book and it is a solid winner. It opens in the present as Scudder, chatting with a friend, relates the story of the murder of Jack Ellery, a childhood acquaintance with whom he had lost contact until the two met at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Jack was on the eighth step of AA’s 12-step program and was in the process of contacting all those whom he had harmed in his past to apologize and ask forgiveness—only instead of forgiveness, it seems someone may have given Jack the ultimate repose.
The reader accompanies Matt as he traverses his beloved New York City investigating each suspect, none of whom outwardly seem to have suitable cause to kill. Along the way Block provides a clear picture of AA, its rules and traditions, and especially its members, whose drinking addictions are sympathetically portrayed without belittlement or stereotyping. The conclusion might be a shocker, but after careful consideration the reaction will be, “But of course! It couldn’t be any other way.”
This is master storyteller Block at his best. He is an expert at creating fully developed characters, often with just a few lines of dialogue, and it is a pleasure to travel along-side Scudder as he visits his old haunts—the bars, churches, coffee shops, and other places that are as much a part of the story as are the characters. Loyal followers of the series will happily revisit, and new readers will discover, a New York seldom seen by tourists. Welcome back, Matt. Damn, we missed you!