In Lawrence Block's 16th Matthew Scudder mystery, Matt is semi-retired. He agrees to follow his client's mysterious boyfriend to find out if he is what he says he is (i.e. not married, living alone, reasonably prosperous, etc.). This assignment alternates with a description in third person of a psychologist interested in whether a convicted killer can really believe he is innocent despite overwhelming evidence.
We soon discover that the psychologist is not all that he claims to be, and that he himself is a serial killer. His description appears to match that of Matt's client's mysterious boyfriend. When the killer strikes close to home, Matt and his wife, Elaine, take precautions to ensure that they are not the next victims.
While the ending is something of a surprise, you can't fault Lawrence Block for not giving you fair clues along the way, and indeed once the "mystery" is unravelled, the story becomes more of a suspense thriller than a whodunit - or who will be doing it next.
Over the course of the 16 novels, Matt has changed from a drunken cop, a divorced ex-cop, an alcoholic who regularly attends AA meetings, and finally the husband of his second wife, a former call girl. His growth is evident in all these novels, and he emerges with new lessons learned and an appreciation for the dwindling number of his friends who have survived into their 60s, as he has.
This report prepared by David Gordon
Morrow, Mar 2005, 24.95, 304 pp.
Five years ago, someone raped and killed three little children. All the evidence pointed to Preston Applewhite, who though he denied the deed, was convicted and sentenced to execution by lethal injection. New York Dr. Bodinson visits Preston, pretending to believe the convict is innocent. Not long afterward, Preston is killed by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
In New York, Matthew Scudder, who retired from NYPD thirty years ago, has reduced his private investigative caseload to practically zero as social security, a city retirement pension, and Elaine's income from her shop seems adequate. However, he accepts Louise as a client and looks into the boyfriend David Thompson she met over an Internet dating service. As his simple inquiries tie back to the Applewhite case, he finds evidence of a serial killer who loves to kill when the moment is right. This killer targets the Scudders as his next victims, which means rape and murder is coming home to roost.
Scudder continues to age with each new book but this time grandpa feels old with his mortality confronting him as he attends several “last call” funerals of peers.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner