Second of the publisher's hardcover reprints of the early Matt Scudder novels. In The Sins of the Fathers (1992/1976), Stephen King waxed on about the alcoholic p.i.'s cases; this one comes with an equally flattering introduction by Jonathan Kellerman, though the story's not as good--a relatively pat, if pungently saturnine, tale of blackmail and murder. As with many reprints of aged paperbacks (e.g., Bill Pronzini's Carmody's Run, p. 554), period-piece value outweighs the literary here. This Scudder is very 70's; boozing his days and nights away; casually bribing cops for the price of a "hat" ($25); willing--thanks to his (and the era's) ignorance about child molestation--to let a pederast go free. The case itself has a classic setup: A small-time hood hires Scudder to guard a package; when the hood turns up dead, Scudder opens the package to find four envelopes, three of them holding blackmail evidence--one on an "architectural consultant" with pockets deep enough to have bought his daughter off a manslaughter charge; another on a society wife with a secret prostitute past; the third on a would-be state governor with a yen for young boys. The fourth envelope contains $4,000 and a request that Scudder find the hood's murderer among the three. The p.i. visits each suspect, pretending to be their new blackmailer. Soon, two near-miss attempts--by car and by knife--are made on his life; then one suspect kills himself: case closed? Scudder thinks so, until an unexpected third attack sends him on a drunken bender and onto the trail of suspect number two: case closed? Not likely, in Scudder/Block's darkly ironic world. More than paperback hack work, but special only to die-hard Scudder fans--and for glimmers of what was to come.