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Even the Wicked (Matthew Scudder)

(Book #13 in the Matthew Scudder Series)

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Format: Mass Market Paperback

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Book Overview

Matthew Scudder knows that justice is an elusive commodity in the big city, where a harmless man can be shot dead in a public place criminals fly free through holes in a tattered legal system. But now... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Least violent, most cheerful of the Scudder series...

Larry Block has published so many novels over the past 35 years or so that you cannot expect all of them to be masterpieces. He does have a few in that category. While this effort is not one of those, it is enjoyable enough. His aging, alcoholic-in-recovery private snoop Matt Scudder is 55, married and stable in this outing. A mysterious killer knocks off a few nasty guys in NYC, and Scudder ends up solving the case. Unfortunately the reader gets to the right conclusion at the same time as the private eye, which robs the saga of its punch. However, the show is not over, because a copycat takes the stage and creates a second case for our hero to resolve, at the same time that he is puzzling out still another, unrelated killing. While Scudder is never in any personal danger in this book, a situation most earlier reviewers lament, I still liked it. He's a complicated but nice guy, with a nice wife and a semi-adopted son who adds sizzle to his life. If you like your mysteries to avoid gristly murder details and personal danger for the lead character, this book will please you. Be warned: other entries in the Scudder series are much more graphic and have more tension, so if that's what you prefer, start with "A Walk Among the Tombstones" or one of the other, earlier novels.

One of my favorite Scudders

Block's Scudder series is serious business, though his characterizations are phenomenal in all his series. The other two: Burglar/Rhodenbarr and Tanner are much lighter, fun, less serious reading. This particular Scudder continues his personal growth from middle-aged, embittered, alcoholic into maturity. This becomes apparent to readers who have read many of the others in this series before reading this one. Some of action is downplayed in reference to character development, which might put off some readers. A good mystery writer spins a fine tale, but a great mystery writer evolves into a great writer who chooses to write mysteries--evolving the genre into literature. It seems to me that this is Block's objective, conscious or unconscious as the case may be. Certainly his poignant descriptions of Scudder's bout with alcoholism is a work or art. Many sides (some light some dark) are variously depicted in this incredible series. Scudder is all too human. Block also includes many memorable lines (which I add to my quote collection) such as: "'If it turns out there's life on Saturn;' Elaine said, `and we go there, we'll find out they've got three sets of eyes, and five sexes, and something against the Jews'" on page 31; "There is, I have been taught, all the difference in the world between the desire and the act. The one is written on water, the other carved in stone." on page 131; and "The room was thick with two conversations, the one we were having and the one we were choosing not to have." on page 283. I didn't read the series in order, it would be interesting to do so.

LAWRENCE BLOCK'S NEWEST IS A VERY INTERESTING PIECE.

ALTHOUGH THIS IS MY FIRST MATTHEW SCUDDER BOOK, I FEEL LIKE I KNOW HIM ALREADY. ALTHOUGH YOU PRETTY MUCH KNOW WHO THE KILLER IS FROM THE BEGINNING, IT'S STILL A GREAT PIECE OF MYSTERY FICTION. SHOWS HOW YOU CAN MAKE A GREAT CRIME BOOK FULL OF GREAT CHARACTERS WITHOUT HAVING AN AMAZING AMOUNT OF VIOLENCE, GORE, AND ACTION.

This is a fine book-- you guys are missing the point.

I strongly disagree with the negative reviews above. I thought "Even the Wicked" is one of the best Scudders, and Block is taking the character into a new phase of his life. Courageously, Block has let Scudder age; now we see him, in his late 50's, having come to terms with many of the midlife issues he faced in "A Long Line of Dead Men." He's a more balanced, more thoughtful man than he was in the earlier books. Beyond that, Block has come up with a truly interesting, original motive for one of the two central murders. I'm looking forward to the next Scudder; as far as I'm concerned, the line points up.

Kinder, gentler, yes, but still essential Scudder.

The post-recovery Scudder books (those subsequent to Eight Million Ways to Die) offer three key elements: (1) a gritty, grisly, New York detective mystery; (2) remarkable insights into addiction, the "addictive personality," addictive thinking and reasoning, addictive feelings; (3) often humorous but deeply incisive commentary on the 12-step recovery process, "the program." As a clinical psychologist, it is the latter two elements that interest me most and keep me waiting eagerly for the next installment; indeed, I have learned more about addiction and AA philosophy from Scudder than from all of my formal professional education, training, and experience. In Even the Wicked, Matt has transitioned into a new phase of life. We could see this coming. He is happily (and faithfully!) married, properly licensed, lives in a nice building, eats well, and is still in solid recovery. Of course, he is still an alcoholic. What may disappoint some is that this story is less grisly, much less violent, and less sordid than previous adventures. If memory serves, Matt doesn't even break any major laws in his typical pursuit of the greater good. (Actually, a couple of minor transgressions do occur, but nothing like the shocking vigilantism of previous stories). Is this a bland shadow of the original Matt Scudder, whom I regard as one of the most fascinating characters in literature? No, it is still Matt, just further down the path. We can see that his addiction produced a 25 or 30-year delay in normal adult development. In his 50s, Matt is only now able to sustain a mature, reciprocal, intimate relationship, a challenge normally faced in one's early to mid 20s. After years, really decades, of extraordinary self-absorption, Matt is finally beginning to be comfortable with the idea of making a broader contribution to society. (Historically, Matt's committment to society has been narrow and simple -- the world becomes an even worse place when a murderer goes unpunished.) While Even the Wicked lacks some of the sex and violence of earlier books, and I, for one, really enjoy sex and violence, on a deeper level it is a great book. It is a psychologically honest portrayal of adult growth and development in the context of long-term successful recovery. Like its predecessors, the book provides a steady stream of insights into addiction. I particularly enjoy the AA humor, entertaining as ever. And, it is a very good story, with numerous twists and turns, some recurring characters without over-doing it, and a particularly satisfying (heart-warming?) conclusion.
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