Review: Time to Murder and Create by Lawrence Block (Matthew Scudder #2)

Small-time crook “Spinner” Jablon hits it big running a blackmail racket. He’s got dirt on three people, who become the three prime suspects when he’s found in the river. Matthew Scudder had been given the evidence by Spinner, just in case that happened.

Why Scudder?: “Why I think you’ll follow through,” says Spinner, “is something I noticed about you a long time ago, namely that you happen to think there is a difference between murder and other crimes.” And Spinner is, of course, correct.

The second Matthew Scudder novel following the stunning The Sins of the Fathers does not pack the wallop of that classic, but few novels do. However, it’s an entirely worthy follow-up. Block’s extraordinary skill with character development is on full display as Scudder crashes into the lives of the three suspects, only one of whom is likely to be guilty–at least of the crime Scudder is investigating.

Block continues to develop Scudder’s moral compass in Time to Murder and Create, and it’s often a broken one. Scudder is barely interested if at all in bringing justice to a situation that’s nearly as reprehensible as murder, likely leaving the reader a little, or a lot, queasy.

The ending of Time to Murder and Create is ultimately unsatisfying–not because of a failure of writing, but because in life, endings often are.

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