Block, Lawrence. The Sins of the Father.

NY: HarperCollins, 1976.

This is the first in the author’s very highly regarded series about Matthew Scudder, New York ex-cop and semi-PI, and while the character isn’t nearly as deeply developed as he would later become, it’s an excellent start and a pretty good story.

A young woman, Wendy Hanniford, has been bloodily murdered in a Greenwich Village apartment, and her roommate, Richie, is found running around the neighborhood in a demented fashion and covered with her blood. He’s quickly in a cell but two days later he hangs himself. Case closed, right? Not quite. Wendy’s father, who hasn’t been much in touch with her lately, needs to know what happened, how she was living, why she was killed. Scudder, who hates being licensed and filling in forms and making formal reports, merely does favors for people, who then make him gifts of money. It keeps things simple, including his life. So he does Wendy’s father a favor by looking into events for him. And nothing is as simple or as clear as the cops and newspapers assumed it was.

Scudder is not always a likeable person, nor was he even an entirely uncorrupt cop. (No cop is, and we all know it.) But he’s generally a sympathetic character. Nevertheless, he takes upon himself here the roles of both judge and jury, and even executioner’s assistant. Maybe he arranges for justice at the cosmic level, but certainly not at the level of American society. So while it’s a good, complex, well-thought-out plot, and while the characters are very nicely constructed and explained, and while Block’s command of prose is certainly undeniable, I was put off by the ending. A lot.

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Published in: on 13 March 2012 at 5:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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