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by Lawrence Block
William Morrow, February 2005
304 pages
ISBN: 0060198311

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Matt Scudder, now in his mid-60s, and his wife, the ex-hooker Elaine are going about with their lives as usual. Elaine tends to her antique shop, and Matt, an unlicensed PI, takes what cases he feels like, goes to AA meetings, and just generally lets life go by. He still hangs out in the same places, and meets the same people he always did. Joe Durkin, a retiring policeman, asks Matt if they could be partners. Matt politely tells him no.

After the AA meeting, a group of members retire to a local coffee shop, where they have a discussion on the death penalty. A pedophile rapist-murderer named Preston Applewhite is to be executed in Virginia in 10 days.

A few days later, at the prison in Virginia, Dr Arne Bodinson, psychologist, visits Applewhite, purporting to believe that the condemned man is innocent. Preston and he talk. Bodinson returns the next day, and Applewhite asks Bodinson to come and watch the execution. The doctor agrees.

Back in New York, another AA member, Louise, asks Scudder to track down her new boyfriend, David Thompson. He is very secretive about his life, and she doesn't want to get too involved if he is married or has some other unsavory traits. Meanwhile, Elaine's best friend, Monica, also has a new boyfriend, but she won't tell Elaine anything about him.

This is darker than most of the earlier Scudder books. It's really a 9/11 book as much as Block's SMALL TOWN or S J Rozan's ABSENT FRIENDS. Elaine and Matt are forced to confront their own mortality in the light of all that has gone before and they keep looking south, through their 14th floor apartment windows, at the space where the Twin Towers once stood.

A literary minded reviewer would say that this goes beyond a genre novel. It doesn't. It just shows what a real crime novel can be in the hands of a master craftsman.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, February 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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