Ah yes, the year 2000. Right before The Troubles. Before 9/11, Katrina, Iraq, Recession 1, the Tea Party, melting coastlines, Trump, and the coronavirus hailing Recession II. Matthew Scudder has emerged from the social decay of 70s and 80s Manhattan to make a decent life for itself in a city that’s enjoying its final moments of pre-9/11 glory.
But who knows what trouble lurks in the hearts of men? The Scudder does! This time with (sigh) yet another serial killer. These have always been the weakest of Block’s Scudder novels, Eight Million Ways to Die barely excluded (and I don’t love that one as much as others do). We even get some POV chapters from the killer, which the novel doesn’t need.
But as I’ve said before, I come here mostly to dwell in Scudder’s world. His view of Manhattan and what makes the city scratch the deepest tourist itch, especially since there’s no real life tourism. I like seeing how the characters are doing, how some have evolved (though I think he’s killed off the wrong ones over the years). And the shoe leather detective work, always a fun aspect of the Scudder books, is of high quality here, much better than its predecessor.
I was going back and reading some of my old Scudder reviews. For book three, Time to Murder and Create, I wrote something along the lines of how I’ll one day look back at these novels and realize I’ve read most of them and remembered none. That’s not true. The series takes off at book four and hits moments of true greatness, peaking with A Dance at the Slaughterhouse. This one is a plot I likely won’t remember as time passes on. But let the record show I liked it well enough because I like the series so much.