After A Long Line of Dead Men I was afraid that Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder series might have jumped the shark, but fortunately it turned out that I was wrong. Even the Wicked, the thirteenth entry in the series, marks a return to form, and while it is not the best among them, it is a solid and entertaining novel.
Particularly remarkable is that it contains a locked room mystery – something that is quite unusual for a hard boiled crime novel (and hard boiled the series still is, even with Scudder dry and settling down, even married it has not lost its edge so far). That apart, Even the Wicked is refreshingly straighforward – there are no secret societies or similar antics here, just thorough, often plodding detective work, and it seems quite appropriate that none of the solutions to the two (or three, depending on how you count) cases Scudder is working on in here comes as a huge surprise to the reader. It’s not the first time this happens in the series, either – quite to the contrary, it has always been part of its particular “down to earth” quality that crime, its motives and perpetrators are often quite banal and predictable. In consequence, mystery has never been Block’s central concern during the entire run of the series, and I strongly suspect he quite intentionally often presents readers with the most obvious solution (some almost glaringly so). At least that would be very much in keeping with his hero’s preferred method of detection which is decidedly unglamerous and for the most part consists of asking around and digging until he comes up with something relevant rather than brilliant deduction in the manner of Sherlock Holmes or any other famous mystery sleuth. The series remains both enjoyable and true to itself then, no small achievement after thirteen volumes, and I’m looking forward to reading the remaining volumes again.