Matt Scudder is finally leading a comfortable life. The crime rate's down and the stock market's up. Gentrification's prettying-up the old neighborhood. The New York streets don't look so mean anymore. Then all hell breaks loose. Scudder quickly discovers the spruced-up sidewalks are as mean as ever, dark and gritty and stained with blood. He's living in a world where the past is a minefield, the present is a war zone, and the future's an open question. It's a world where nothing is certain and nobody's safe, a random universe where no one's survival can be taken for granted. Not even his own. A world where everybody dies.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
The body count is indeed high in this latest Matt Scudder tale, which is also the best since A Walk Among the Tombstones (1993)resonant, thoughtful, richly textured and capped by a slam-bang windup. At the center of the case is Matt's old buddy, Mick Ballou, the murderous and hard-drinking Irish mobster with a deeply philosophical streak who is one of Block's most enduring creations. Two of Mick's henchmen have been killed in what should have been a routine liquor hijacking. After Scudder helps Mick bury the bodies at the mobster's upstate farm, he finds he has been targeted himself. Two hoods try to rough him up on the street, then an old friend, Matt's sponsor at Alcoholics Anonymous, is gunned down in a restaurant after being mistaken for Matt. It soon becomes clear that someone from Ballou's past is aiming to destroy him, and Matt, caught in the crossfire, has to try to determine who's behind the mayhem. He does so in his usual ruminative way, working it out with wife Elaine, streetwise sidekick TJ and old cop comrades who are now, because of his friendship with Ballou, against him. In the end, Matt has to stand alone with Ballou to put a stop to the vendetta in a blaze of gunfire. Block's seamless weave of thought and action, and his matchless gift for dialogue that is true, funny and revealing, have seldom been on more effective display. The pages leading up to the climax have an almost Shakespearean feel for human resignation in the face of mortality. (Oct.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 09, 1999
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Excerpt from Everybody Dies by Lawrence Block
Andy Buckley said, "Jesus Christ,"and braked the Cadillac to a stop. I looked up and there was the deer, perhaps a dozen yards away from us in the middle of our lane of traffic. He was unquestionably a deer caught in the headlights, but he didn't have that stunned look the expression is intended to convey. He was lordly, and very much in command.
"C'mon," Andy said. "Move your ass, Mister Deer."
"Move up on him," Mick said. "But slowly."
"You don't want a freezer full of venison, huh " Andy eased up on the brake and allowed the car to creep forward. The deer let us get surprisingly close before, with one great bound, he was off the road and out of sight in the darkened fields at the roadside.
We'd come north on the Palisades Parkway, northwest on Route 17, northeast on 209. We were on an unnumbered road when we stopped for the deer, and a few miles farther we turned left onto the winding gravel road that led to Mick Ballou's farm. It was past midnight when we left, and close to two by the time we got there. There was no traffic, so we could have gone faster, but Andy kept us a few miles an hour under the speed limit, braked for yellow lights, and yielded at intersections. Mick and I sat in back, Andy drove, and the miles passed in silence.
"You've been here before," Mick said, as the old two-story farmhouse came into view.
"Once after that business in Maspeth," he remembered. "You drove that night, Andy."
"I remember, Mick."
"And we'd Tom Heaney with us as well. I feared we might lose Tom. He was hurt bad, but scarcely made a sound. Well, he's from the North. They're a closemouthed lot."
He meant the North of Ireland.
"But you were here a second time When was that "
"A couple of years ago. We made a night of it, and you drove me up to see the animals, and have a look at the place in daylight. And you sent me home with a dozen eggs."
"Now I remember. And I'll bet you never had a better egg."
"They were good eggs."
"Big yolks the color of a Spanish orange. It's a great economy, keeping chickens and getting your own eggs. My best calculation is that those eggs cost me twenty dollars."