I am a devoted fan of the Matt Scudder series, and found myself riveted to this book. Cruel fate intervenes in many ways in this story to push the characters to the edge. How they deal with those challenges is intensely personal, and makes you think about what you, the reader, would have done. As a result, you learn a lot about yourself and the characters. This book is not for the squeemish, for it contains some of the most graphic violence imaginable. Yet the violence is essential to the story, as a civilized man (Scudder) is drawn into a law of the jungle type situation. When civilization offers no direct solution to your problems, what should you do? That's the moral dilemma that is repeated throughout the book. Like the best of the Ross MacDonald novels, this mystery clearly transcends the genre into being primarily a novel about good and evil. Heart of Darkness is evoked in several ways. The plot also shakes up many of the base line themes in the Scudder series so that subsequent books will undoubtedly take Scudder into new directions -- something all Scudder fans should welcome. In many ways, this book is as pivotal to the series as the first book, When the Sacred Ginmill Closes. This book is a must read for all Scudder fans. I felt drawn in not only by the moral dilemmas, but by the detail of the writing. How would I carry a concealed gun? Would I keep a bulletproof vest on during hot weather? If you like Lawrence Block and have not read Scudder, you should start now. I do suggest that you read the books in chronological order of their publication. The characters build nicely from one book to the next, and you will find this book much more satisfying if you know what preceded it. Otherwise, this will simply seem somewhat like a book filled with gratuitous violence. If you do not know Block, I think this is his finest series. You should start now with When the Sacred Ginmill Closes. You have a major treat ahead of you as you read the 14 books in this series.