The Matlock Paper: Thrills at the university level

Silver and black type on front cover tell book author and title
The paper looks innocent enough.

The Matlock Paper is a tense, carefully plotted thriller about Jim Matlock, a young English literature PhD recruited by the Department of Justice to go undercover to find Nimrod, the brains behind an organization running drugs, gambling, and prostitution and in nearly every university in New England.

The DOJ regards Matlock as “flawed but mobile” and susceptible: Matlock’s younger brother died from a heroin overdose and he holds himself responsible.

Organized crime has arranged a conference to negotiate an accommodation with Nimrod, whose extraordinary growth is taking a bite out of crime.

The same night after giving him a crash course in how to go undercover, Matlock’s DOJ contact is killed on the way to his car and someone takes a shot at Matlock.

All that happens in the first 38 pages.

Even though there are dozens of characters to watch, novelist Robert Ludlum makes his characters distinctive so that there’s no trouble remembering who’s who.

Aside from letting Matlock go more than two weeks without ever going to teach a class, Ludlum makes his inventive tale seem plausible.

You won’t gain and wisdom from The Matlock Paper, but you’ll be totally caught up on Matlock’s world for a few hours.

The Matlock Paper by Robert Ludlum
Doubleday, © 1973. 310 p
1973 bestseller #8. My grade: B+

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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