It took me twelve books total to realize how much I love the Matthew Scudder series. But I do. I’m so glad I re-discovered this in the last few months.
The early books were just simple whodunnits, no more no less. Competently written yet not necessarily worth the time and effort to invest in the whole series. Yet my thirst for gritty New York tales is almost impossible to slake, so I kept coming back to these.
Slowly but surely, Block continued to improve as a writer, building Matthew as a character, creating a world around him. Along the way, he continued to be creative with these books. Each one feels like a self-contained story. The endings are almost always different. There’s always a noir-ish feel to Matthew’s engagement with the world.
And I say that with this one, which is far from his best work. I found the plot to be contrived by Block’s standards and the resolution, while interesting, a bit too uninspired. Diabolical villain is not in Block’s wheelhouse. His characters are too earthy (which is a big reason why I like the series).
Nevertheless, I enjoyed going back to Matthew’s world, watching him do detective work, seeing him continue to try and find himself. He is the closest thing I think I’ll ever get to Lew Archer, only if Archer was more introspective about himself than his context. Even with a lesser work, I enjoyed plugging along to the familiar beats that sing a different song.
I love this series.