Monday, May 21, 2012

one-way ticket

Title: A Ticket to the Boneyard
Author: Lawrence Block

I like Bernie Rhodenbarr in short stories; it gives him the space to be witty without the onus of filling the vast volume between covers.  Keller, in my limited experience, does a better job of filling those considerably larger shoes, if only because of his tendency to wax philosophic, rely upon Dot, and take his sweet time to do what he needs to do.  To be fair, I've only read one Keller novel, but I've also only read one Matthew Scudder novel, and of Block's various protagonists, Matt is the reigning king.  He regales with short stories, and easily holds his own through this brutal novel.

Years ago (book time), Matt put away a monster.  An exceedingly cruel man with strong hands, knowledge of all the body's pain centers, and a disturbing skill at inflicting psychological damage.  Now, long off the force, devoid of a PI license, and working for an agency, he finds out that James Leo Motley is free, and he's coming for Scudder.  But first, he vows to kill "all your women."  Matt is divorced; he has no family; he has no "women."  Motley kills any woman connected to Scudder, starting with a woman who testified at his trial.

Hamstrung by lack of hard evidence and the police department's disbelief that it's happening, Matt is on his own to stop a vicious killer.  In true hard-boiled form, he gets his ass kicked at least once.

Block's version of New York is all seedy underbelly.  Scudder navigates it well, and has contacts with contacts.  The real question is whether he's good enough to get Motley and put him away for as long as he deserves.  The writing is as brutal as the antagonist, and the descriptions of what Motley does were enough to make me feel uncomfortable, but it's extremely well done.  It makes me want to read the entire Scudder canon.

...On a nice, sunny day.

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posted by reyn at 3:35 PM


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