A Time to Scatter Stones by Lawrence Block [5/10]

Knowing Matt Scudder, loner New York PI, defines one as a crime fiction fan from three decades ago, and seeing Lawrence Block release the novella “A Time to Scatter Stones” had the heart pattering. Both Scudder and his creator helped form me as reader and writer (who can forget Block’s inspired how-to books?). So it pains me to report more disappointment than reading pleasure. The story is a straightforward one, very Block-ish in its subtle unfolding – Scudder is intro’d by Elaine his wife to a prostitute who is trying to get out of the game but threatened by a creepy client – but “straightforward” can mean simplistic, and this tale unfolds as ho-hum. The climax foreshadows itself. Much of the novella is discursive, riffy conversation between the married couple or with the prostitute, and while Block is master at this stuff, the gentle pace numbs quickly. If you like New York locales, you’ll appreciate the detailed street color. All told, this is a completist’s pleasure in a minor key but would baffle any newcomer to Block’s oeuvre.

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