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Even the Wicked (Matthew Scudder Series #13)

Even the Wicked (Matthew Scudder Series #13)

3.1 6
by Lawrence Block

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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 a vigilante is roaming among the millions, executing those he fees deserve to die. He calls himself "The Will of the People"—an ingenious serial killer who


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 a vigilante is roaming among the millions, executing those he fees deserve to die. He calls himself "The Will of the People"—an ingenious serial killer who announces his specific murderous intentions to the media before carrying through on his threats. A child molester, a Mafia don, a violent anti-abortionist—even the protected and untouchable are being ruthlessly erased by New York's latest celebrity avenger.

Scudder knows that no one is innocent—but who among us has the right to play God? It is a question that will haunt the licensed p.i. on his journey through the bleak city grays, as he searches for the sanity in urban madness. . .and for a frighteningly efficient killer who can do the impossible.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Marriage to his old flame, Elaine, seems to have mellowed Block's veteran PI, Matt Scudder. He still continues to get his man with a combination of doggedness and occasional flashes of inspiration, but his life has become too cozy to make him the absorbing companion he used to be. Quiet domestic evenings spent talking things over with Elaine in Block's patented delightful dialogue alternate with thoughtful discussions, in this case, with the two perpetrators in the book, who give themselves up without a murmur. Voices are never raised; not even a roscoe barks. It's all too civilized, as if Scudder's formerly gritty world were moving closer to that of Block's much slighter series hero, the daffy burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr. There are two plots here, ingeniously intertwined: one involves a serial killer taking out notable bad guys to the delight of the New York press, particularly a pushy columnist who gets to publish the man's gloating notes; the other concerns the mysterious killing, in broad daylight on a park bench, of a friend of a friend of Scudder's who's in the last stages of AIDS and has a complicated insurance arrangement. As usual, Block's ingenuity in finding new motives for crime is endless, his narration polished, his entertainment value high. What is missing here is the violence, or the constant threat of it, that made Scudder's earlier appearances memorable. The ending, involving Scudder's streetwise sidekick TJ, is downright sentimental. Brace up, Block! (Feb.)
Library Journal
When Block speaks, people listen; especially mystery buffs. In this latest in his Matthew Scudder series (e.g., A Long Line of Dead Men, Morrow, 1994), a vigilante preys on New York's worst criminals.
Kirkus Reviews
The self-anointed "Will of the People" is a serial killer with a difference. His targets are all people you might wish were dead yourself, from child rapist-murderer Richie Vollmer to mafioso Patsy Salerno to rabid anti-abortion activist Roswell Berry to anti-Semitic black professor Julian Rashid—who wasn't even killed by the person writing gravely threatening letters to Marty McGraw of the Daily News, but by a member of Rashid's own inner circle. Does that prove that Will is a hoax? Not at all, claims Will in his next letter; it just shows that the will of the people expresses itself through many agents. So how can Will's latest target, all-too-successful criminal defender Adrian Whitfield, protect himself? By hiring legendary Matthew Scudder (A Long Line of Dead Men, 1994, etc.) to take Will on. Though he's ready to pass along some tips about personal security to Whitfield, Scudder doesn't see what he can dig up about Will's identity that an army of cops have missed—and besides, he's already been teased into looking into the unheralded and apparently unrelated shooting of AIDS-stricken Byron Leopold in a public park. But Scudder's underestimating himself. By the time he finally closes his most satisfying case in years, he'll have identified Will and run down a hideously clever murder plot based on "viatical transactions."

An ingenious whodunit that's also, in Block's recent manner, a provoking meditation on mortality—with a particularly strong supporting role for the City of New York, which turns in its finest performance since Ellery Queen's Cat of Many Tails.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Matthew Scudder Series , #13
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He paused, and I knew what he was going to say an instant before he said it. "He wasn't writing about one of my clients. He was writing about me."

"What did he say?"

"Oh, lots of things," he said. "I could read it to you."

"You've got the letter?"

"A copy of it. McGraw faxed it to me. He called me first, before he called the cops, and he faxed me a copy of the letter. That was actually damned considerate of him. I shouldn't have called him a jerk."

"You didn't."

"When I first brought his name up, I said—"

"You called him an idiot."

"You're right at that. Well, I don't suppose he's either one, or if he is he's a considerate specimen of the breed. You asked what Will said. 'An Open Letter to Adrian Whitfield.' Let's see. 'You have de voted your life to keeping guilty men out of prison.' Well, he's wrong about that. They're all innocent until proven guilty, and whenever guilt was proved to the satisfaction of a jury, they went to prison. And stayed there, unless I could get a reversal on appeal. In another sense, of course, he's quite correct. Most of the men and women I've rep resented did what they were accused of doing, and I guess that's enough to make them guilty in the eyes of Will."

"What's his beef with you, exactly? Doesn't he think the accused are entitled to a defense?"

"Well, I don't want to read you the whole thing," he said, "and his position's hard to state with precision, but you could say he takes exception to the fact that I'm good at what I do."

"That's all?"

"It's funny," he said. "He doesn't even mention Richie Vollmer, and that's what got him started."

"That's right, you were Vollmer's attorney."

"I was indeed, and I got my share ofhate mail when he managed to dodge the wheels of Justice, but there's nothing in here about my role in getting him off. Let's see what he says. He says I put the police on trial, which is hardly unique on my part. Our mutual friend Gruliow does that all the time. It's often the best strategy with a minority defendant. He also says I put the victim on trial. I think he's talking about Naomi Tarloff."


"It might surprise you to know I've had some second thoughts about that case. But that's neither here nor there. I defended the Ellsworth boy the best I knew how, and even so I didn't get him off. The jury convicted the little son of a bitch. He's upstate serving fifteen-to-twenty-five, but that's nothing to the sentence our friend Will has imposed. He says he's going to kill me."

I said, "I assume McGraw went straight to the cops."

"With the briefest pause to ring me up and then fax me the thing. As a matter of fact he made a Xerox copy and faxed that. He didn't want to screw up any physical evidence by running the original through his fax machine. Then he called the cops, and then I heard from them. I had two detectives over here for an hour, and I can call them idiots without regard to the possibility that they're friends of yours. Did I have any enemies? Were there clients who were bitter about my efforts on their behalf? For Christ's sake, the only embittered clients I've got are the ones behind bars, where no body has to worry about them, least of all myself."

They have to ask.

"I suppose so," he said, "but isn't it fairly obvious that this isn't a guy with a personal motive? He's already killed four people, and he nailed the first one because Marty McGraw told him to. I don't know what earned me a place on his shit list, but it's not because he thought I charged him too much for keeping him out of jail."

"Did they offer you protection?"

"They talked about posting a guard in my outer office. I can't see what good that's going to do."

"It couldn't hurt."

"No, but it couldn't help all that much either. I need to know what to do, Matt. I've got no experience in this area. Nobody ever tried to kill me. The closest I've come to this was five or six years ago when a man named Paul Masland offered to punch me in the nose."

"A disaffected client?"

"Uh-uh. A stockbroker with a snootful. He accused me of fucking his wife. Jesus, I was one of the few men in western Connecticut who hadn't had a shot at her."

"What happened?"

"He swung and missed, and a couple of guys grabbed his arms, and I said the hell with it and went home. The next time I ran into him we both acted like nothing had ever happened. Or maybe he wasn't acting, because he'd been pretty drunk that night. It's possible he didn't remember a thing. You think I should have told the two detectives about Paul?"

"If you think there's a chance he could have writ ten that letter."

"It'd be a neat trick," he said, "because the poor bastard's been dead for a year and a half. A stroke or a heart attack, I forget which, but he went in a minute, whichever it was. Son of a bitch never knew what hit him. Not like our friend Will. He's a fucking rattlesnake, isn't he? Warning you first, letting you know what's coming. Matt, tell me what I should do."

"What you should do? You should leave the country."

"You're not serious, are you? Even if you are it's out of the question."

That didn't surprise me. I said, "Where are you? At your office?"

"No, I got out of there once I got rid of the cops. I'm at my apartment. You've never been here, have you? We always met downtown. I live at . . . Jesus, I was wondering if I should say it over the phone. But if he's got the phone tapped he'd have to know where it's installed, wouldn't you say?"

Early on, he'd asked if his voice was shaky. It hadn't been and it still wasn't, but his anxiety was apparent in the way his conversation was becoming increasingly disjointed. He told me the address and I copied it down. "Don't go anywhere," I said. "Call your doorman and tell him you're expecting a visitor named Matthew Scudder, and not to let me up until after I've shown him photo ID. And tell him I'm the only visitor you're expecting, and not to let anybody else up. And tell him that includes the police.

"All right."

"Let your machine screen your phone calls. Don't pick up unless you recognize the caller. I'll be right over."

Copyright ) 1998 by Lawrence Block

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Jonathan Kellerman
Lawrence Block is a master. -- Jonathan Kellerman

Meet the Author

Lawrence Block is one of the most widely recognized names in the mystery genre. He has been named a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America and is a four-time winner of the prestigious Edgar and Shamus Awards, as well as a recipient of prizes in France, Germany, and Japan. He received the Diamond Dagger from the British Crime Writers' Association—only the third American to be given this award. He is a prolific author, having written more than fifty books and numerous short stories, and is a devoted New Yorker and an enthusiastic global traveler.

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Even the Wicked 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first Lawrence Block novel that I read and I enjoyed his writing style. The plot itself was another story. The book was separated into three sections. Each section was about a different murder mystery. All three were extremely predictable. You figured it out early and then the remainder became boring. Needed more twists and turns or the book size should have been cut in half.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Matt Scudder is a laid back kind of private eye. He does a lot of thinking and a lot of reasoning. In this tale he solves three crimes, including one of serial killings, which has everyone baffled. Finding the solution without Scudder¿s input would seem impossible. I like Block¿s style, which meant I, the reader, could adopt a laid back attitude not too common in crime or thriller fiction. This was however, a fast paced, difficult to put down book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would have rated this higher, because most of it was excellent. However,I just didn't buy the last confession. That character would never in a million years have fallen for Scudder:s "you'll feel better if you confess" schtick, and it ruined the book.
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