These were the dark days for Matthew Scudder. An ex-New York cop, he had drowned his career in booze. Now he was drinking away his life in a succession of seedy establishments that opened early and closed late, reduced to doing paid "favors" for the cronies who gathered with him to worship the bottle. Now, in a sad and lonely place like so many before it, opportunity comes knocking - a chance to help the ginmil's owner recover his stolen doctored financial records; a chance to help out a drinking buddy accused of murdering his wife. But when cases flow together in dangerous and disturbing ways - like the nightmare images in a drunkard's delirium - it's time for Scudder to change his priorities: to staying sober...and staying alive.