I usually don’t get excited about the specific plots of Lawrence Block’s Scudder novels. Just the opportunity to read a Scudder book is cause for excitement in and of itself. But I was pretty pumped for this one. I’ve always been fascinated with his Mick Ballou character, the last of the great Irish gangsters in Hell’s Kitchen according to Matt’s universe. Since this one centered around Ballou hiring Matt, I desperately wanted to get to it. I read through it’s predecessor novel Even the Wicked in anticipation of getting there.
So why the three stars when I usually give Scudder books 4?
I wouldn’t say this one is a let down, per se. The first half of it is rather compelling. Without giving too much away, some personal things happen to Matt and Block plays them to great effect. If you’ve walked this far on Matt’s journey, you know how much has changed from what was. Usually in cases, Matt’s personal life isn’t too involved. To see that happen here added an emotional layer to this one that I did not expect.
But the resolutions were both predictable and blasé, which is not what one often says about a Scudder novel. I was hoping for something different as these books usually have different endings with various levels of excitement but I called all the shots here and that’s sad. Shows the series is a little long in the tooth. I still love it but I was hoping for more. Expectation free…it’s closer to a 4-star read but again, that back half isn’t what I typically expect from Block.