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. Read full book review >
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