- STAFF PICKS
- GIFTS + GIFT CARDS
- SELL BOOKS
- FIND A STORE
This title in other editions
Other titles in the Matthew Scudder Mysteries series:
A Long Line of Dead Men (Matthew Scudder Mysteries)by Lawrence Block
Synopses & Reviews
Chapter OneIt must have been around nine o'clock when the old man stood up and tapped his spoon against the bowl of his water glass. Conversations died around him. He waited until he had full silence, then took another long moment to scan the room. He took a small sip of water from the glass he'd been tapping, set it on the table in front of him, and placed his hands palm-down on either side of the glass.Standing as he did, with his angular frame tilted forward, his thin beak of a nose jutting out, his white hair swept straight back and combed down flat, his pale blue eyes magnified by thick lenses, he put Lewis Hildebrand in mind of a figure carved on the prow of a Viking ship. Some great idealized bird prey, scanning the horizon, seeing for miles and miles, for years and years."Gentlemen," he said. "Friends." He paused, and again worked the room's four tables with his eyes. "My brothers," he said.He let the phrase echo, then leavened the solemnity with a quick smile. "But how could we be brothers? You range in age from twenty-two to thirty-three, while I have somehow contrived to be eighty-five years old. I could be the grandfather of the oldest man here. But tonight you join me as part of something that stretches across years, across centuries. And we shall indeed leave this room as brothers."Did he pause for a sip of water? Let's suppose that he did. And then he reached into a pocket of his suit jacket and drew out a piece of paper."I have something to read to you," he announced. "It won't take long. It's a list of names. Thirty names. He cleared his throat, then tilted his head to peer at his list through the lower portion of his bifocal lenses."Douglas Atwood," he said. "RaymondAndrew White. Lyman Baldridge. John Peter Garrity. Paul Goldenberg. John Mercer..."I've made up the names. There's no record of the list, nor did Lewis Hildebrand recall any of the names the old man intoned. It was his impression that most of them were English or Scotch-Irish, with a couple of Jews, a few Irish, a handful that would have been Dutch or German. The names were not in alphabetical order, nor was there any evident scheme to them; he was to learn later that the old man had read their names in the order of their death. The first name read — not Douglas Atwood, although I've called him that — was the first man to die.Listening to the old man, hearing the names echo against the room's wood-paneled walls like clods of earth falling on a coffin lid, Lewis Hildebrand had found himself moved almost to tears. He felt as though the earth had opened at his feet and he was gazing into an infinite void. There was a pause of some length after the reading of the final name, and it seemed to him that time itself had stopped, that the stillness would stretch on forever.The old man broke it. He took a Zippo lighter from his breast pocket, flipped its cap, spun its wheel. He lit a corner of the sheet of paper and held it by its opposite end while it burned. When the flame had largely consumed the paper, he laid what remained in an ashtray and waited until it was ashes."You will not hear those names again," he told them. "They are gone now, gone to wherever the dead go. Their chapter has closed. Ours has just begun."He was still holding the Zippo, and he held it up, lit it, and snapped it shut. "This is the fourth day of May," he said, "in the year 1961. When I first sat with the thirty menwhose names I've read to you, it was the third of May and the year was 1899. The Spanish-American War had ended just ten months ago. I myself was twenty-three years old, just a year older than the youngest of you. I had not fought in the war, although there were men in the room who had. And there was one man who had served with Zachary Taylor in the war with Mexico. He was seventy-eight years old, if I remember correctly, and I sat and listened to him read the names of thirty men of whom I'd never heard. And I watched him burn those names, but of course he did so by putting a wooden match to the list. There were no Zippo lighters that day. And that gentleman — I could tell you his name but I won't, I spoke it for the last time a few minutes ago — that gentleman was twenty or twenty-five when he saw another old man set another list of names afire, and that would have been when? The early 1840s, I would suppose. Did they have wooden matches then? I don't believe they did. There would have been a fire on the hearth, and I suppose the fellow — and I couldn't tell you "his name if I wanted to — I suppose he dropped the list into the fire."I don't know the date of that meeting, or where it took place. My first meeting, as I said, was in 1899, and there were thirty-one of us in a private dining room on the second floor of John Durlach's restaurant on Union Square. It's long gone, and so's the building that housed it; the site's occupied now by Klein's Department Store. When Durlach's closed we tried a different restaurant each year until we settled on Ben Zeller's steak house. We were there for years, and then there was a change -in ownership twenty years ago and we weren't happy. We camehere to Cunningham's and we've been here ever since. Last year there were two of us. This year there are thirty-one."
An ancient brotherhood meets annually in the back room of a swank Manhattan restuarant, a fraternity created in secret to celebrate life by celebrating its dead. But the past three decades have not been kind to the Club of 31. Matthew Scudder — ex-cop, ex-boozer — has known death in all its guises, which is why he as been asked to investigate a baffling, thirty-year run of suicides and suspiciously random accidents that has thinned the ranks of this very select group of gentlemen.
But Scudder has mortality problems of his own, for his is a city that feeds mercilessly on the unsuspecting — and even the powerful and those who serve them are easy prey. There are too many secrets here, and too many places for a maddeningly patient serial killer to hide...and wait...and strike.
The winner of multiple Edgar, Shamus, and Maltese Falcon Awards, Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Lawrence Block has elevated the detective novel to high art—combining grit with intelligence, suspense with stunning emotional complexity and power. And in unlicensed private investigator Matthew Scudder, he has created a character whose depth and stark humanity is unrivalled in contemporary fiction.
An ancient brotherhood meets annually in the back room of a swank Manhattan restaurant—a fraternity created in secret to celebrate life by celebrating its dead. But the past three decades have not been kind to the Club of 31. Matthew Scudder—ex-cop, ex-boozer—has known death in all its guises. Which is why he has been asked to investigate a baffling, thirty-year run of suicides and suspiciously random accidents that has thinned the ranks of this very select group of gentlemen. But Scudder has mortality problems of his own. For this is a city that feeds mercilessly on the unsuspecting—and even thepowerful and those who serve them are easy prey. There are too many secrets here—and too many places for a maddeningly patient serial killer to hide . . . and wait . . . and strike.
About the Author
Lawrence Block is a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master and a multiple winner of the Edgar, Shamus, and Maltese Falcon awards. His fifty-plus books include the Matthew Scudder novels, the most recent being the critically acclaimed Everybody Dies, and the New York Times bestseller Hope to Die. Mr. Block is a devout New Yorker who spends much of his time traveling.
What Our Readers Are Saying
Other books you might like