A Walk Among the Tombstones
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"A Walk Among the Tombstones" Characters Analysis

By Lawrence Block

mystery | 339 pages | Published in NaN

Big-time dope dealer Kenan Khoury is a wealthy man, and it comes as no surprise when his wife Francine is kidnapped and a ransom demanded. Kenan pays up and his wife is duly returned to him - in small pieces left in the boot of an abandoned car, leaving private eye Matt Scudder to speculate on the motives of a very unusual kidnapper. Soon he is on the trail of a pair of ruthlessly sadistic psycopaths whose insanely cruel games have only just begun...


Estimated read time: 8 min read

Table of Contents

  1. List of Characters

List of Characters

Character NameRole
Matthew ScudderProtagonist
Kenny KristoAntagonist
Elaine MardellSupporting Character
Peter KhourySupporting Character
RaySupporting Character
CarlosSupporting Character

Role Identification

In Lawrence Block's crime thriller "A Walk Among the Tombstones," the characters play various roles that contribute to the development of the plot and the exploration of the novel's themes. The protagonist, Matthew Scudder, takes on the role of a private investigator driven by justice and redemption. TJ serves as Scudder's loyal sidekick, providing assistance and moral support throughout the investigation. Kenny Kristo acts as the main antagonist, a ruthless drug dealer who sets the plot in motion. Elaine Mardell, Peter Khoury, Ray, and Carlos are supporting characters who add depth to the narrative and influence Scudder's character arc.

Character Descriptions

  1. Matthew Scudder: Scudder is a former NYPD detective turned unlicensed private investigator. He is a middle-aged man with a troubled past, haunted by his alcoholism and the accidental death of a young girl. Scudder is described as tall, with graying hair and a weathered face. He exudes a sense of determination and carries himself with a quiet confidence.
  2. TJ: TJ is a street-smart teenager who becomes Scudder's ally and confidant. He is resourceful and intelligent, often providing valuable information and insights during the investigation. TJ is depicted as a young African American with a quick wit and a sharp sense of humor. Despite his tough exterior, he has a compassionate side that endears him to Scudder and the readers.
  3. Kenny Kristo: Kristo is a ruthless drug dealer and the main antagonist of the story. He is described as a man in his thirties, with a muscular build and a menacing presence. Kristo is driven by greed and power, willing to go to great lengths to protect his criminal empire. His cold and calculated nature poses a constant threat to Scudder's pursuit of justice.
  4. Elaine Mardell: Mardell is a troubled woman who seeks Scudder's help in solving a personal tragedy. She is a heroin addict who has lost her sister to a brutal murder committed by Kristo's gang. Mardell is depicted as fragile and vulnerable, desperately searching for closure and justice. Her interactions with Scudder reveal her resilience and determination to find the truth.
  5. Peter Khoury: Khoury is a former drug addict turned drug counselor. He becomes an essential source of information for Scudder during the investigation. Khoury is depicted as a wiry, nervous man, haunted by his past and eager to atone for his mistakes. Despite his flaws, he provides valuable insights into the criminal underworld, aiding Scudder in his pursuit of justice.
  6. Ray: Ray is a police officer and Scudder's former colleague. He appears sporadically throughout the story, offering advice and assistance to Scudder when needed. Ray is depicted as a seasoned detective, with a gruff demeanor and a no-nonsense attitude. His presence adds a touch of authenticity to the narrative, reflecting the camaraderie between law enforcement officers.
  7. Carlos: Carlos is a remorseful hitman who becomes involved in Scudder's investigation. He is portrayed as a complex character, torn between his loyalty to Kristo and his desire for redemption. Carlos is a physically imposing man with a troubled conscience, making him a compelling ally to Scudder in his quest for justice.

Character Traits

  • Matthew Scudder: Determined, resourceful, haunted, observant, compassionate.
  • TJ: Street-smart, witty, loyal, compassionate, resourceful.
  • Kenny Kristo: Ruthless, cunning, intimidating, power-hungry, manipulative.
  • Elaine Mardell: Fragile, vulnerable, determined, resilient, haunted.
  • Peter Khoury: Nervous, knowledgeable, remorseful, helpful, conflicted.
  • Ray: Gruff, experienced, reliable, supportive, pragmatic.
  • Carlos: Conflicted, remorseful, strong, loyal, complex.

Character Background

  1. Matthew Scudder: Scudder's background as an NYPD detective is shaped by his alcoholism, which led to his resignation from the force. He carries the guilt of accidentally killing a young girl during a shootout, which triggers his decision to become an unlicensed private investigator. Scudder's past experiences inform his approach to solving crimes and his dedication to seeking justice for the victims.
  2. TJ: TJ's background is not extensively explored in the novel, but it is implied that he comes from a difficult and impoverished background. His street smarts and survival instincts have shaped him into a resourceful and resilient teenager, capable of navigating the dangerous world of crime.
  3. Kenny Kristo: Kristo's background as a drug dealer is characterized by violence and ruthlessness. He grew up in a poverty-stricken neighborhood and turned to crime to gain power and wealth. His background influences his behavior and motivations throughout the story, driving him to protect his criminal empire at all costs.
  4. Elaine Mardell: Mardell's background as a heroin addict adds complexity to her character. Her addiction has led to a strained relationship with her family and a vulnerability that makes her a target for Kristo's gang. Her background of struggle and loss fuels her determination to find justice for her sister's murder.
  5. Peter Khoury: Khoury's background as a former drug addict gives him a unique perspective on the criminal world. His experiences with addiction and his subsequent recovery shape his character, allowing him to empathize with the victims and provide valuable insights to Scudder.

Character Arcs

  1. Matthew Scudder: Scudder's character arc in "A Walk Among the Tombstones" revolves around his journey towards redemption. Through his investigation, Scudder confronts his past demons and finds a sense of purpose in seeking justice for the victims. He evolves from a haunted and guilt-ridden man into a determined and compassionate investigator, willing to risk his own life to bring the perpetrators to justice.
  2. TJ: Although TJ is not the central character, he experiences growth and development throughout the story. He starts as a street-smart teenager looking for money but transforms into a loyal ally and moral compass for Scudder. TJ's experiences alongside Scudder shape his understanding of justice and the importance of standing up against evil.
  3. Kenny Kristo: Kristo's character arc centers around his descent into madness and desperation as Scudder closes in on him. Initially portrayed as a powerful and intimidating antagonist, Kristo's facade crumbles as his criminal empire is threatened. His arc showcases the consequences of his actions and the unraveling of his carefully constructed world.
  4. Elaine Mardell: Mardell's character arc is driven by her search for closure and justice. Her transformation from a vulnerable heroin addict to a determined advocate for her sister's memory highlights her strength and resilience. Throughout the story, she finds the courage to confront her fears and face the truth, ultimately finding a sense of peace.


  • Matthew Scudder and TJ: The relationship between Scudder and TJ is one of trust, loyalty, and mentorship. Scudder acts as a father figure to TJ, guiding him through the dangerous world they navigate together. Their bond strengthens as they work towards a common goal, relying on each other for support and protection.
  • Matthew Scudder and Elaine Mardell: Scudder's relationship with Mardell is one of compassion and understanding. He becomes emotionally invested in her case, offering support and guidance throughout the investigation. Their connection grows as they share their personal struggles, forging a bond built on empathy and shared pain.
  • Matthew Scudder and Kenny Kristo: Scudder's relationship with Kristo is one of cat-and-mouse, with Scudder determined to bring him to justice. Their interactions are marked by tension and a mutual understanding of each other's capabilities. Their relationship represents the battle between good and evil, with Scudder challenging Kristo's power and authority.
  • Matthew Scudder and Peter Khoury: Scudder's relationship with Khoury is one of mutual respect and collaboration. Khoury's knowledge of the criminal underworld proves invaluable to Scudder's investigation. They form a partnership built on trust, as they work together to unravel the truth behind the crimes.
  • Matthew Scudder and Ray: Scudder's relationship with Ray is one of camaraderie and shared experiences. As former colleagues, they have a deep understanding of each other's strengths and weaknesses. Ray's occasional appearances provide insight into Scudder's past and offer a sense of continuity between Scudder's life as a detective and his life as a private investigator.

In conclusion, "A Walk Among the Tombstones" presents a diverse cast of characters who contribute to the riveting plot and exploration of justice and redemption. Matthew Scudder's character arc, along with the relationships he forms along the way, drives the narrative forward, making the book a compelling and immersive crime thriller.