In the first book in a series, Lawrence Block introduces readers to Matthew Shrudder, who does favours for his "friends" that no one else will:
A brutal murder of a woman by her roommate, who is found raving covered in blood the middle of the street. This is an open and shut case as the roommate confesses and then kills himself while in police custody. But the woman's father cannot let it go, he was estranged from his daughter and wants to know who she was before she was murdered. Enter Matthew Shrudder, a former police officer who has become an unlicensed PI, who has a talent for uncovering information and in the seedy underground of New York, Shrudder's skill set is one that you want working for you.
I became aware of Block as an author because of the move Walk among the Tombstones, which was a darker detective movie with Liam Neeson as a the main character Shrudder. I was intrigued about the book that it was based upon but I am never one to start i the middle of the series so back the beginning I went with this book. I will say after reading this book Neeson was the perfect casting to play Scudder. This book is a mystery one as Scudder attempts to find out who Wendy was before her murder as a "favour" to her father. He father wants to know if he had any responsibility towards her death as they had fallen lost touch with each other and he did nothing to get back in contact with her.
It is hard to describe who Shrudder is as I think you really just scratch the surface of his character in this book. I promise he is one of the good guys (just very rough around the edges), despite the techniques he may use to get the job done. He is an alcoholic, divorced (who rarely sees his kid), it's above using a bribe or intimidation to get his way and well really bend the law in general to find what he is looking for. So basically Shrudder is a very interesting character that I cannot wait to see developed further.
This is an old school modern detective book, well private eye book as Shrudder is a former cop, and by old school modern i mean it takes place in the 80s. This book shows the corruption that used to be every day occurrences in the police forces back in the 80s which is when this book took place. Shrudder knows how this system works and he uses it to his advantage (and does even state he wasn't beyond taking a bribe when he was on the force as well). It was also interesting to see how mindsets have changed even in the past 30 years, as homosexuality plays a prominent role in this book and back to the corruption part, there are talks about police raids on gay bars.
I actually appreciated the placement in time for this book as there are no computers, or cell phone or internet for that manner (or one that is used by the every day person) that Shrudder is forced to look for answers the old fashioned way. It was a nice change of pace from all the technology that is in newer books and how easy information is accessed. Shrudder really has to hit the streets and talk to people in order to get the information that he seeks, plus have a keen mind to put it all together as he is not working as part of a team.
This was a good start to a series, and I liked the mystery aspect of it. I thought, based upon the premise there might be more of a thriller aspect, however, there is not, but I still enjoyed the book as it is well written and does not muddy the waters with side stories. I'm looking forward to continuing on in the series.