The 1976 paperback that introduced Block's melancholy, alcoholic shamus Matt Scudder finally gets a well-deserved hardcover edition--as well as a charming fan letter of an introduction from Stephen King. King pinpoints why the nine-book Scudder series (A Dance at the Slaughterhouse, 1991, etc.) is among mystery's most popular and finest: "The absence of cats," i.e., "tricks." As King says, Scudder is a "pure" detective who "is real because his milieu is real." The fascinating ordinariness of Scudder and the harsh realness of his New York City arrive full force here as the p.i. is hired by a distraught father to look into the recent stabbing murder of his estranged daughter. Not to solve it, because the apparent killer, the girl's gay male roommate, has already been arrested--and punished: he's hung himself in his jail cell; but to find out more about the girl and why anyone would want to kill her. Scudder accepts the job reluctantly, as is his dour way, and during the course of his brief digging exhibits the sort of brave yet flawed behavior that sets him apart from other literary p.i.s: doggedly following the victim's trail down unexpected alleys as he learns that she was a moderately happy hooker who in fact was loved like a sister by her alleged killer; as he tithes 10% of his earnings to random churches; casts a cynical yet kindly eye on his fellow citizens; seeks release from the evil he finds in some through booze, the hired love of call-girl Elaine, and stunning bursts of violence, particularly against a mugger whose fingers he carefully snaps one by one. And, of course, Scudder turns up the real killer. Not as richly textured as most of the later cases, but, still, as haunting and mournful as the baying of a hound at the moon--and a must for Block/Scudder fans.