Earlier this year, the mystery community paid tribute to Block's extraordinary Matt Scudder aeries by awarding 1991's A Dance at the Slaughterhouse--not quite the aeries' finest--an Edgar for Beat Mystery. Scudder's new outing, his tenth, lives up to the honor as the brooding, alcoholic p.i takes on a pair of sadistic thrill-killers. Block opens with some stylistic flash, intercutting third-person narration of the abduction-murder of a Brooklyn drug-dealer's wife with Scudder's account of his own mundane doings the day of the crime. The p.i.'s voice takes over entirely, explaining bow the dealer's brother, a fellow AA member, asked him to look into the killing--a particularly vicious crime, with the victim, despite a ransom payment, returned in butchered pieces. Slowly--the action takes a while to boil--Scudder sniffs up leads with much help from his pals--not gangster Mick Ballou, who dominated the p.i.'s last three cases but who's now visiting Ireland, but other series veterans, including lover/call-gift Elaine and T.J., a spunky young hustler. And a pair of newcomers, the Kongs, teenage outlaw hackers whose midnight ramble through the phone company's computers provides a welcome light note as well as valuable clues. The case breaks when another drug-dealer's daughter is snatched, leading to a skin-prickling showdown with the killers at a Brooklyn cemetery, and to a grim and vicious blood-revenge. The story concludes, though, with Scudder fumbling toward a new alliance with Elaine, and with an alcoholic's suicide--affecting examples of the frailty, courage, and moral uncertainty that are Block's real subjects. The Edgar Award merely confirmed what Block's fans already know--that Matt Scudder is the most appealing and richly human p.i. working today. And this exciting, moving, immensely satisfying case proves it.