This is a city that seduces dreamers...then eats their dreams. Matthew Scudder understands the futility of his search for a longtime missing Midwestern innocent who wanted to be an actress in the vast meat-grinder called New York City. But her frantic father heard that Schudder is the best -- and now the ex-cop-turned-p.i. is scouring the hell called Hell's Kitchen looking for anything that might resemble a lead. And in this neighborhood of the lost, he's finding love -- and death -- in the worst possible places.
The prolific author's humanity and the immediacy of his understated style are again evidenced in his seventh mystery related by Matt Scudder: ex-NYPD officer, recovering alcoholic, and now private detective ( When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes , etc.). This novel opens with Matt looking for Paula Hoeldtke, an aspiring actress who disappeared a short time after she arrived in Manhattan from Muncie, Ind. In an unrelated case, Matt investigates the apparent suicide of a fellow AA member, Eddie Dunphy, and becomes the lover of Willa Rossiter, who manages the apartment house where Eddie lived. The affair flourishes despite warnings from his AA sponsor about an involvement with Willa, a heavy drinker. Matt ignores the advice, as he does the anonymous phone calls ordering him to quit asking questions about the missing girl and Eddie's death. In time, the dogged investigator uncovers the appalling facts that close both cases. In this riveting mystery, Block's artistry creates a full complement of fully realized characters, each a real person regardless of his or her perhaps tenuous connection to the plot. (Oct.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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July 30, 2002
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Excerpt from Out on the Cutting Edge by Lawrence Block
When I imagine it, it is always a perfect summer day, with the sun high in a vivid blue sky. It was summer, of course, but I have no way of knowing what the weather was like, or even if it happened during the day. Someone, relating the incident, mentioned moonlight, but he wasn't there either. Perhaps his imagination provided the moon, even as mine chose a bright sun, a blue sky, and a scattering of cottony clouds.
They are on the open porch of a white clapboard farmhouse. Sometimes I see them inside, seated at a pine table in the kitchen, but more often they are on the porch. They have a large glass pitcher filled with a mix of vodka and grapefruit juice, and they are sitting on the porch drinking salty dogs.
Sometimes I imagine them walking around the farm, holding hands, or with their arms around one another's waists. She has had a lot to drink, and it makes her boisterous and flamboyant and a little unsteady on her pins. She moos at the cows, clucks at the chickens, oinks at the pigs, and laughs at the whole world.
Or I'll see them walking through woods, then emerging at the bank of a stream. There was a Frenchman a couple hundred years ago who always painted idealized rustic scenes, with barefoot shepherds and milkmaids cavorting in nature. He could have painted this particular figment of my imagination.
And now they are naked, there by the stream's side, and they are making love in the cool grass.
My imagination is limited in this area, or perhaps it is simply a respecter of privacy. All it provides is a close-up of her face. Expressions play on her face, and they are like newspaper articles in dreams, shifting and going out of focus just before I can read them.
Then he shows her the knife. Her eyes widen, and something goes out of them. And a cloud moves to cover the sun.
That's how I imagine it, and I don't suppose my imagination comes very close to actual circumstances. How could it Even eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, and I'm the furthest thing from an eyewitness. I've never seen the farm. I don't even know if there's a stream on the property.
I never saw her, either, except in photographs. I'm looking at one of those photos now, and it seems to me that I can almost see the play of expressions on her face, and her eyes widening. But of course I can see no such thing. As with all photographs, all I can see is a moment frozen in time. It's not a magic picture. You can't read the past in it, or the future. If you turn it over you can read my name and telephone number, but when you turn it over again it's the same pose every time, the lips slightly parted, the eyes looking into the camera, the expression enigmatic. You can stare at it all you want and it's not going to tell you any secrets.