A new breed of entrepreneurial monster has set up shop in the big city. Ruthless, ingenious murderers, they prey on the loved ones of those who live outside the lawknowing full well that criminals will never run to the police no matter how brutal the threat. So other avenues for justice must be exploredwhich is where ex-cop-turned-p.i. Matthew Scudder comes in. Scudder has no love for the drug dealers and poison peddlers who now need his help. Nevertheless, he is determined to do whatever it takes to put an elusive pair of thrill-kill extortionists out of business. For they are using the innocent to fuel their terrible enterprise.
Despite their dark titles (the words Slaughterhouse and Boneyard figured in the previous two), Block's splendid, award-winning Matt Scudder novels are by no means unrelievedly bleak. His latest-as well as offering the customary skillful plotting, adroit pacing and sure sense of New York character-features a wry humor all its own, along with a particularly ingratiating and convincing pair of computer hackers. The premise is grim, certainly: a pair of men who prey murderously on women progress to kidnapping the womenfolk of drug dealers and demanding huge ransoms. Former alcoholic PI Scudder-now going to more AA meetings than ever-reluctantly agrees to help one dealer, a Lebanese, after his wife is killed by the kidnappers. Slowly and methodically he discerns a pattern in the mayhem. With the help of his erstwhile police colleagues, his black Times Square sidekick TJ and his call-girl sweetheart, Elaine, Scudder tightens the net on the culprits. When they seize the daughter of a Russian dealer, he is ready for the showdown. Block isn't big on action, though when it comes it is swift, vivid and horribly convincing; his Scudder books are built on character, atmosphere, crackling dialogue and a great deal of brooding-the taste for them is addictive. An equal of Elmore Monard and Robert Parker, Block deserves similar acclaim. Author tour. (Nov.)