Lawrence Block continues the growing tale of his crime fighting protagonist Matthew Scudder in Everybody Dies, published by William Morrow and Company, copyright 1998.
Block begins this intense tale with Matthew Scudder and his well known hoodlum friend Mick Ballou who have taken a drive out to Mick’s farm in the northern forests of New York State. The friends are on a mission to bring the dead bodies of two Irish lads out to Mick’s farm and bury them where they’ll never be found. How they came to be dead is yet to be discovered but a few bullet holes tell an interesting history as to their demise. The lads were Mick’s employees; Matt and Mick had discovered them when they did not return after Mick had asked them to go to his storage unit and pick up a few cases of various liquors, spirits, and soda water that regularly sold at Mick’s bar. Named “Grogan’s”, the bar has been the favored watering hole and eatery for the many generations of Irish immigrants who have settled in New York City.
In addition to the bodies of Mick’s employees, the storage unit was completely empty except for the remains of a liquor bottle that had been broken against one of the storage unit’s walls. Matthew, having been a police detective for many years, had retired from the force and opened a private investigations business. Matt had not been the cleanest of cops and had accepted monies for various things such as planting or suppressing evidence, lying in court, and beating criminals until they told the story that he felt was appropriate for the situation. Though Matt had committed these illegal police activities he always felt that he was serving up the true justice that he felt the courts failed to provide. After all, his affiliation with crime bosses, illegal booze traffickers, and various other aspects of crime in New York had kept his rent paid and a meal in his belly. He, at least to himself, could justify these slight crossings of the borderline between the letter and spirit of the law.
Seeing the two Irish lads beaten and shot sets Matthew into a very foul mood. He begins by questioning the people who are renting the storage units that are close to Mick’s and can only find out there was a large white van there around the time the lads disappeared. Not much, but a clue all the same. Mick decides to hire Matt in his professional capacity as a private detective, knowing the next step is to find out who had acquired this large white van that made off with all Mick’s booze and left his two young friends lying in pools of their own blood. Matt sets about making inquiries and questioning people in the vicinity including truck rental agencies. One dark night after pounding the pavement all day he is cornered in a dark alley by two guys who tell him to drop the case which he agrees to do, but they explain their employer would not like it if they simply let him walk away. A brawl ensues but Matt is able to escape the thugs and retreat back home.
Matt had gotten too close to the source. Soon after the alley encounter a man walks into Grogan’s with an automatic weapon and opens fire, killing most of those there yet Matt is saved by Mick who dives upon him and they conceal themselves in the back room. At this point the real police get involved and the first thing they want is to connect Matt Scudder with the shootings at Grogan’s. The police investigator, George Wister, has been a detective for some time and senses that Matt is the key to these killings. Tension continues to heighten after Matt, on one of the nights when he meets his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor for chinese food, returns from the washroom to find his sponsor slumped over with two bullets in his head. Matt and Mick know that whoever is pursuing them will follow them to Mick’s farm so they arm themselves and go to lie in wait for what turns out to be an enormous gun battle.
Lawrence Block has once again created an exceptional crime and detective thriller that I could not put aside as I read it. This is a fine novel with very vivid descriptions of the characters and circumstances. Bring your Irish!
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