Time to Murder and Create is the second book in the Matthew Scudder book series. I recently read the first book in the series and reviewed it here:
I fell in love with this character after reading the first book and watching the new movie Walk Among the Tombstones, I reviewed this movie here:
Lawrence Block wrote this book in 1976 and reflects that time frame in New York City. Some plot lines may not work today as well as they worked in the 1970’s, I’ll get to this a little later.
In this story there is only one returning character and that is Scudder himself. I would say you can read this book without reading the first book and still enjoy it. We do flashback to his “origin” story for a lack of a better word in this book, so if you are not familiar with what happened in book one, it gives you a brief synopsis.
Scudder evolves a little more in this book, but not much. He is still very religious or at least looking at religion for some answers. He is drinking very heavily in this installment as well. He is our typical hardboiled ex-cop in a lot of respects, but very original in many ways, right up your alley if you are a fan of hardboiled and noir fiction.
This book puts our hero in a very unique situation. He is approached by an old informant who feels Scudder is an honest man. Jake “The Spinner” Jablon is the former informant turned blackmailer. He gives Scudder the sealed envelope to open in the case of his death. Of course we have seen this “if something happens to me the information will go straight to the Police” scenario. What was unique is we usually see it from the blackmailer or the person being blackmailed, never from the point of view of the person holding the information in case of death. We soon find out Spinner has been murdered and Scudder is on the case to find out who did it. The problem is Spinner has been blackmailing three people, not just one! So our hero must investigate all three to find the murderer, all the while keeping their secrets safe from the police. Spinner only wanted the guilty party punished in this case and the other two set free of their past crimes.
Now back to why this works in the 1970’s but would never work today. One of the three being black mailed used to be in the porn industry, she is married to a rich and powerful man and wants this kept secret from her new circle of society. Another is a politician hoping to be Governor of New York someday. His past is one of liking little boys and Spinner has the proof. In today’s world of the internet, I would find it hard to believe a former porn-star who is rich and famous now would be able to hide that fact. The second case I feel could be hidden from the public, but someone of that stature and with today’s politicians looking for dirt on their competition, this would be hard to keep secret very long.
This is another fun read and I look forward to reading more of Mr. Blocks work and the Scudder series in particular. The stories may not be totally original, but Block always puts an original spin on them making them very unique and entertaining. A good read for any fan of crime fiction.