Block, Lawrence. A Ticket to the Boneyard.

NY: HarperCollins, 1990.

Matt Scudder, ex-cop, unlicensed investigator, and alcoholic struggling to reform, is both a good person to have on your side and a bad person to cross, especially when the demons have got him. His best friend is Mick Ballou, a frequently violent career criminal, and the only female he’s at all close to is Elaine, a call girl with a lot of money invested in New York real estate.

Back when he was still a cop, he rescued Elaine from a very strong, very misogynistic and very, very dangerous psychopath named Motley. Scudder wanted him off the streets and so he framed for assault on a police officer, which put him in state prison. (No surprise there, that’s how cops generally think.) When Motley finally got out — having killed a couple of prisoners in the meantime — he was even stronger, even more dangerous, and a whole lot craftier. And he wanted his own brand of revenge against Scudder and Elaine. And women Scudder knows begin to die.

As always in Block’s novels, there is both a very good plot (this time it’s a good deal scarier than usual) and excellent characters and dialogue, as well as Matt’s ruminations on his own motives, on what life is supposed to be like (he’s trying to work his way through Marcus Aurelius in that regard), and whether all these deaths are ultimately his fault. He’s not at all the same person he was twelve years before and he doesn’t know whether he really ought to have set up Motley as he did. (Elaine has no doubts.) But that doesn’t keep him from short-circuiting the criminal justice system yet again. I have to wonder if you can really call someone like Scudder, someone who has committed quite a few felonies himself (some of them pretty violent), a “hero.” I don’t think so. But he’s a fascinating character nonetheless.

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Published in: on 15 July 2012 at 7:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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