Lawrence Block, . . Morrow, $24.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-06-019831-2

Matt Scudder, bestseller Block's extraordinary private detective, has been around for almost 30 years, and if his aging has been neither gentle nor graceful, it's certainly been eventful. In his stellar 16th outing (after 2001's Hope to Die ), the 60-something Scudder proves to be as tough and resilient as ever when faced with the slickest, sickest killer to ever test his mettle. Fans won't be surprised that the killer is linked to the unresolved murders of Hope to Die or that Elaine and Scudder may become the fiend's target. The narrative smoothly shifts between Scudder's point-of-view and the thoughts and actions of the killer, whose ingenuity, daring and pure viciousness sear the pages. Aware of the danger but without a clue to the person behind the threat, Scudder and Elaine are forced into a protective siege while Scudder uses all his skills to probe the mystery. Series fans will welcome the familiar characters and places that have become such an important part of Scudder's universe: TJ, Mick Ballou, Grogan's Bar, the AA meeting spots. Add them together with some brilliant twists and one gets a thrilling, satisfying concoction brewed by a master storyteller in top form. Agent, Daniel Baror at Baror International. (Mar. 1)

FYI: MWA Grandmaster Block has won numerous Edgar and Shamus awards and recently began his first full-time job in 40 years as an executive story consultant on the ESPN series Tilt!, which debuted in January.