Time to Murder and Create

Posted: November 24, 2021 in Book reviews

By Lawrence Block

When small time crook turned big time blackmailer Jacob “Spinner” Jablon turns up dead the cops aren’t much interested in solving the crime, but unlicensed Private Investigator Matt Scudder has already been hired to bring Spinner’s killer to justice, by Spinner himself! Months before Spinner gave Matt a sealed envelope and told him to only open it in the event of his death. Matt opens the envelope to discover his fee, and details on the three people Spinner was blackmailing, along with instructions to figure out which one killed him, and then to let the other two off the hook.

Scudder didn’t much like Spinner, but he has a thing about murder, and his innate sense of honour means he takes Spinner’s case. But who is the killer? The father whose daughter killed someone in a hit and run? The pederast politician? Or the society wife who was once a hooker/porn star?

One thing soon becomes clear, whoever killed Spinner now has Matt Scudder in their crosshairs!

I think I was a teenager when I read my first Matt Scudder novel, borrowed from the library in the late 1980s I think (could have been early nineties I guess which would make me not a teenager!). It was, I think, either When the Sacred Ginmill Closes or Eight Million Ways to Die. What matters is that I loved it and, I think, I’ve read every Scudder novel since, or at least most of them, because I don’t hold onto many books anymore, not like I used to, it’s hard to recall which books you’ve read and which you haven’t. Anyway, I’ve been considering a reread for a while and as luck would have it I found a second hand bookshop with quite a stash. I picked up three, but really should have nabbed the other three they had, but much as I love adding to my never ending reading pile, one must have limits!

Time to Murder and Create is the second Scudder novel, though I think around this time they’re fairly interchangeable. Scudder spends a lot of time thinking about the child he accidentally killed when he was still a cop, he spends a lot of time sitting in churches despite not being religious (even going so far as to tithe ten percent of everything he earns into church poor boxes) and he spends most of his time drinking, no matter the time of day or night. Of course, it could be argued that Scudder becomes really interesting, and shakes off a few hard boiled tropes, once he stops drinking, but that’s a few books away, and there’s still much to enjoy here.

Scudder is no Poirot, he doesn’t do deductive reasoning, what he does is get in people’s faces, ask questions, shake the tree and see what falls, and he’s very good at it, even if his plan to pretend to be taking Spinner’s blackmail operation over yields some tragic consequences.

The plot is slight, but that just makes for a fun, quick read. There’s all you’d expect from this kind of story there’s a vicious killer, a lascivious femme fatale, and all manner of lowlifes and decent people caught in difficult situations, oh and Block’s prose is always a joy, and slips off the page as easily as the booze Scudder drinks slips down his throat.

Always highly recommended.    

  1. Mim says:

    That sounds fun! I think Pete might like it.

    • starkers70 says:

      As I said I’ve always liked Block, this is from 1977 and if Pete ends up liking them there are a lot! The character does become more interesting once they quit drinking! (around book 5 or 6 I think)

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