Reviewed by Mark D. Nevins:

LAWRENCE BLOCK – A Ticket to the Boneyard. Morrow, hardcover, 1990. Avon, paperback, 1991.

   After the uneasy settling-in of Out on the Cutting Edge, number seven in the Matt Scudder series, in which Block seemed to be working through what to do with his newly sober protagonist, A Ticket to the Boneyard goes full-throttle adrenaline.

   It’s really nothing like the prior books in the series, and I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing — it may to some extent depend on what comes in the next few books. This novel introduces James Leo Motley, an almost super-villian-like bad guy, and the novel is a brutal game of cat-and-mouse as Motley has promised to destroy Scudder “and all his women.”

   In some ways Out on the Cutting Edge reads a little more like a Travis McGee novel than a Scudder — or maybe that’s just me, because the Scudder series is quickly joining McGee as one of my favorite of all time. While the action is relentless in Boneyard, Block does make time for the introspection and interior monologue that make these books so special. I have to say that at points the violence here was so shocking it almost put me off (I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a book I thought was really good), and in the hands of a lesser writer it wouldn’t have worked. Block really gets the fear going in this one.

   I sometimes like to quote especially effective passages (usually more “literary” ones) in books I enjoy, so here’s one from Boneyard:

    “I slept for around five hours Monday morning and woke up hung over, which didn’t seem fair. I’d slopped down quarts of bad coffee and watered Coke and breathed in acres of secondhand smoke, so I don’t suppose it was out of the ordinary that I wasn’t ready to greet the day like Little Mary Sunshine, but I liked to think I’d given up mornings like this along with the booze. Instead my head ached and my mouth and throat were dry and every minute took three or four minutes to pass.

    “I swallowed some aspirin, showered and shaved, and went downstairs and around the corner for orange juice and coffee. When the aspirin and coffee kicked in I walked a few blocks and bought a paper. I carried it back to the Flame and ordered solid food. By the time it came all the physical symptoms of the hangover were gone. I still felt a profound weariness of the spirit, but I would just have to learn to live with that.”