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A Walk among the Tombstones
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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.)

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