For Matthew Scudder’s 16th case, and his first in three years, Block borrows the time-honored pattern of the sleuth whose hearth and home are menaced by a killer from his past.
Like his friends, Scudder is watching the shadows thicken while he inches toward retirement. But first he takes an unofficial case for an acquaintance, checking out the bona fides of a suitor who’s suspiciously secretive. Meantime, a man identifying himself as Yale psychiatrist Dr. Arne Bodinson drops into a Virginia prison to interview Preston Applewhite, who insists against all the evidence that he never saw the three boys he’s been convicted of raping and killing. The portentous atmosphere hanging over the scenes between Bodinson and Applewhite is so thick that most readers will intuit the true relationship between the two men, but that’s just the point: Block is less interested in springing surprises than in evoking the kind of dread of melodramatic threats that’s only an inch from the abiding terror of death in all its shapes. Soon enough the shadowy killer strikes close to the hero, and from that point on it’s war without quarter between Scudder, his wife Elaine, his assistant TJ, and the solicitous but not terribly helpful NYPD, and the killer, resurrected from Hope to Die (2001) for a return match.
Another powerful meditation on mortality in thriller’s clothing. As Scudder puts it, “There’s always another funeral to go to. They’re like buses.”