Mean Streets

Some things just get better with time. Scudder's one of them.

Unless you're a fan of noir suspense, you've probably never heard of Lawrence Block - which is a pity, because he's one of the best thriller writers currently working the beat, and is often compared to that other great noir writer, Raymond Chandler. Unlike Chandler, though, Block's stomping ground is New York - and in "Everybody Dies", he returns to those streets with Matt Scudder, the once-alcoholic private eye whom he's made famous in past novels.

Things are looking good for Scudder - he's married Elaine, the woman he loves; got himself a PI license; and seems to have finally kicked his drinking habit. New York has changed too - the streets are cleaner, the crime rate's down, and business is good. Until, that is, his friend Mick "The Butcher" Ballou calls on him for help; someone's trying to put Mick out of business, and whoever it is doesn't really seem to care about the damage he does to get there. Of course, Mick's no saint either - after all, this is the guy who once chopped off his sworn enemy's head with a meat cleaver and carried it around in a bowling bag, showing it off at all the local pubs...

As Scudder investigates, it becomes clearer and clearer that this is no ordinary turf war - all the violence is directed at Ballou's business and family, and Scudder himself is soon a target. How the situation is resolved makes for a great story, with quite a few surprising twists and turns. Block is excellent as usual - his narration is spot on, as are his descriptions of New York City life and events. If you haven't read a Block before, start with this one - it'll make you a believer!

This article was first published on 22 Mar 2000.