Second edition of Matthew Scudder's saga, and I'm looking forward to the next.(Oh, who am I kidding? I've already started the next one, but had to stop and do the review for this so I can give it the thought it deserves).Scudder's daily meandering between bourbon and coffee is interrupted when Spinner, one of his ex-stoolies, comes to him with a request. Hold on to an envelope; if Spinner dies, open it and take whatever action Scudder thinks is right. Nothing happens to Spinner, don't eyeball the contents. Needless to say, something happens, the envelope is opened and Scudder finds himself contacting the unsavory victims of Spinner's blackmail in an effort to solve his murder.Characterization continues to shine. Scudder's actions, while somewhat thought out, have unintended and unfortunate consequences, much like his shooting the bystander in the robbery. Good intentions, half-baked implementation and disastrous consequences. I liked that Block was willing to throw his lead into such difficult situations, but equally unwilling to let him wallow there. Even as he flirts with an alcoholic haze, he finds himself unable to abandon responsibility. I can see why this would be an Edgar nominee; the level of moral ambiguity and compassion for the characters is impressive. Trina is fast becoming one of my favorite guest characters, with her sympathetic ear and her sassy humor. Here she checks out a visitor for Scudder and her description makes a strange kind of sense: "You know who he looks like? The Marlboro man." "From the commercials? Didn't they use more than one guy?""Sure. He looks like all of them. You know, high rawhide boots and a wide-brimmed hat and smelling of horseshit, and the tattoo on his hand. He's not wearing boots or a hat, and he doesn't have the tattoo, but it's the same image. Don't ask me if he smells of horseshit. I didn't get close enough to tell."Block's writing so clearly captures an image that there are spots that I find myself re-reading for sheer pleasure. He had the best description of a cigarette after a long hiatus that almost lured me into picking one up:"I brought a pack of cigarettes out of the machine and smoke three of them with my coffee. They were the first I'd had in almost two months, and I couldn't have gotten a better hit if I'd punched them right into a vein. They made me dizzy but in a nice way."That's right, kids--cigarettes used to be sold in vending machine. But don't worry; there was a sign on them that said it was illegal to sell or buy them if you were under 18, so it was perfectly safe).For me, the one downside was the mystery itself. Scudder thinks he's fingered the killer, and it is such an illogical assumption that one can almost see the flick of a red tail in the pages. Still, the twists and big reveal are satisfactory, if no other reason than Scudder's unique resolution skills.Three and a half stars, rounding up because Trina made me laugh and Block made me remember a cigarette from ten years ago.