Matthew Scudder's exceptionally gripping eighth outing finds the unlicensed, alcoholic Gotham p.i. (Out on the Cutting Edge, 1988, etc.) pitted against a human monster. The trouble starts when Matt's friend, call-girl Elaine Mardell, is mailed a clipping on the mass murder/suicide of an Ohio family. Only one man, Elaine reasons, could have sent the clipping, because only he could know that the slain wife was once Elaine's fellow hooker: James Leo Motley, a sadistic, necrophiliac psycho just released from a prison sentence that Matt and Elaine framed him into 12 years before. When Matt gets an identical clipping, he too is convinced that Motley killed the family, and he flies to Ohio to try--with little success--to convince the local police of the same. Returning to New York, Matt plunges into hell: a vengeful Motley is stalking and killing women tied to Matt, however loosely. The maniac throws one of Matt's A.A. friends from a 22-story window, then savages a woman with the last name of Scudder, no relation. Despairing, Matt loses his edge and is lured into an abandoned lot where Motley tortures him--and leaves him slinking off for a bottle of bourbon. But rage replaces thirst: Matt goes out and beats up an obnoxious punk, then hangs out with friend Mickey Ballou, a career criminal. The rage becomes fierce when Matt learns that Motley has rope-tortured Elaine to the edge of death, leading the p.i. to dispense vigilante justice in a brutal, shocking conclusion. More thriller than mystery, and a powerful one: with Motley a kind of absolute evil against which Matt measures his own frailities and strengths, this sensitive and entertaining case is the series' richest since Eight Million Ways to Die--a must for Block/ Scudder fans.