I went straight from Scudder 12 and into Scudder 13, and didn’t even pause long enough to finish my review of the former. Not because I was so excited or compelled. More I didn’t want to break my reading momentum. That’s faint praise, but I don’t mean it to be: if I’m about to complain about this book, it’s always with the understanding that Block is a damned fine writer and I’ll read pretty much anything he’s written.
That said, there’s not a lot in this book for the hard-core mystery fan. I’m going to spoil a few things here, but if you’ve been reading these Scudder novels, I won’t tell you anything you haven’t figured out on your own, and if you haven’t read these novels, what the hell are you doing reading a review of the thirteenth book in a 17 volume series.
When the main character goes up to the villain and says “You did it,” and the villain replies “You’re right, so let’s walk to the police station,” what you don’t have is any kind of thriller. And when it happens twice in the same book, with two different bad guys guilty of two different crimes, you barely even have a mystery novel, do you. Matt’s done this before. He pounds the pavement and talks to everybody and visits all the scenes and chews on some random thoughts and figures it out. The end. If this were a TV show you’d expect the cinematographer got more money than the writers.
You know what I mean? It’s all about mood, and maybe character, but we’ve known Matt for, what, a little over 20 years now? (Or three months, which is how long it’s been since I started Scudder #1.) So “character” here isn’t even all that… well, “novel,” anymore.
A locked room mystery, letters from the killer to the newspaper, vigilante justice for a child rapist… there’s bits and pieces her to draw your attention- but what ends up holding it is just decent writing, a complacent mood, and a nice little Christmas-day denouement to choke you up for a half second before moving on to book 14. Which I’m about to do.