Small-time stoolie, Jake "The Spinner" Jablon, made a lot of new enemies when he switched careers, from informer to blackmailer. And the more "clients," he figured, the more money -- and more people eager to see him dead. So no one is surprised when the pigeon is found floating in the East River with his skull bashed in.
This is the third of Block's superb Matt Scudder series to appear (it was first issued by Dell in paperback back in 1977), and its return now in hardcover from Dark Harvest (which did the first, Sins of the Fathers , last year) is great news for admirers. The story is swift, complicated and elegant, and Kellerman gets it right when he says that the Scudder novels ``are the best New York crime novels ever written.'' In this one Scudder, still in his drinking days, is paid by ``Spinner'' Jablon, a small-time hood, to hold an envelope for him, with instructions to open it only when he dies, and then do what's necessary. What's necessary turns out to be determining which of Jablon's three eminent blackmail victims did the little man in. One is a wealthy businessman who's been covering up for his teenage daughter, whose car killed a child; there's a society wife with a past in porn movies and prostitution; another is a candidate for governor with a taste for hurting small boys in sadistic sex. How Scudder finds out who had Jablon killed, and the sometimes tragic consequences of his investigation, provide the meat of this outstanding thriller, which moves effortlessly through sleazy bars, skyscraper suites and luxury hotels. The dialogue is, as always, dead on and rivetingly entertaining, and the atmosphere--Kellerman has it right again--is ``wonderfully morose.'' Not to be missed. (Oct.)