Still Among the Living

In this New York Times Notable debut, Boston P.I. Matt Jacob has a rude awakening when his shrink asks him for help. Jacob is forced to get himself off the couch when two unrelated cases combine to snare him in a web of adultery, betrayal, and murder.

The New York Times:

Notable book of the New York Times

“Matt Jacob, a private eye from Boston, makes his debut in a novel that offers rich
characterizations…if he can resist the impulse to turn Matt Jacob too straight too soon, the author
can keep his singular detective on good cases for a long time.”

The Boston Globe

John Koch

"I'd call it one of the best and certainly the most off-center detective novels I've read…Klein's is a terrific idea—have Jacob work on two very different mysteries at once, the deep human disorders disturbing him and the case he's called upon to solve…Klein's private eye and his prickly prose are original. Savor "Still Among the Living and pray this is not the last we will read of Matt Jacob.

Canada’s Globe and Mail

All the right stuff to make it in Hollywood:

...before Jacob can solve the case he has to confront his own nightmares and past horrors…Matt Jacob is a terrific character with a lot of life in him beyond this book.

Read a sample chapter of Still Among The Living

Still Among The Living

For Sue
Who is, happily, very much alive.
And who has been, in no small measure, the reason
I’m still among the living.


My eyes opened half an hour before the alarm was supposed to sound. Something had sliced through my sweaty tossing. I reached for the glass on the floor and swallowed through a dry mouth, hot with leftover grass and tobacco. The harsh, grating blare of the back-door buzzer eliminated the remnants of my indeterminate dreams and dragged at my dread tight stomach. I almost spilled the water. It wouldn’t have mattered; only the plants liked the lead taste. I forced my eyes closed and wrapped a pillow around my head. The buzzer kept insisting and I finally stood up. I could outwait the telephone, but lost every time to the doorbell. I held onto the dresser but avoided looking into the mirror on the way to the kitchen. I wobbled across the room, fumbled with the chain, yanked the door open, and stood gridlocked in my underwear in front of my shrink.

I stole a glance down the front of my shorts to see if my fly was open, then worried about whether Dr. James had to pick her way through sleeping drunks in the alley. My apartment was in a mixed area of the city—ranging from students and musicians to the rich and famous. I lived closer to the musicians. When I lived here years ago the alley housed a solid percentage of the city’s alkies. Since this was a neighborhood the pols used to broaden the tax base, most, but not all, of my old neighbors were gone by the time I returned.

After the accident my father-in-law, Lou, bought the building and put me in charge. He assured me his cash flow dictated a real-estate investment and his banker had gold-starred my city. We both knew this was bullshit since Lou didn’t like the building, and hated the neighborhood the moment he saw a couple of men kissing under a streetlight. Also, Lou lived twelve hundred miles away and I had a hunch there were other hot towns closer by.

But Lou wouldn’t listen and I didn’t care enough to argue. I needed a cave to hibernate in and he felt guilty that he still had some family and I didn’t. There was no reason for him to feel that way. He didn’t lose much less in the accident than I.

The building was one of two six-flats set back like garages from the large, absentee-landlord apartment buildings that dominated the block. Between the money I got for selling the suburban house, and the salary I’d get for caretaking, I didn’t have to get a job. Truth be told I wanted to be a janitor.

Cleaning made me feel productive.

Lou was indirectly responsible for Dr. James as well. I had stared at the bronze dedication silhouettes in the hospital’s private, plastic-paneled waiting room for so long they had begun to resemble my long-lost parents. It must have been the eighth or ninth day of the wait, when we were sitting there alone, that he said, “Boychik, you haven’t said a word for two days.”

I looked at him.

“I’m not exaggerating. I’ve been watching. Your friends come into the waiting room and you disappear into the wall. Nobody wants to bother you right now, but people are worried. I’m worried. Even if they come out of it okay”—he jerked his head toward the closed green sliding doors as his eyes fixed firmly down on his own feet—”You gotta get help. They are going to need you.”

“They’re not coming out of this okay.” I looked away. “I appreciate your concern.”

“This isn’t just concern.”

“Lou, let it alone. I’m experienced at watching my life disintegrate.”

Well, experience is no substitute for smarts and right then I wasn’t very smart. But Lou’s words pulled at my skin six months later when Simon, my lawyer friend, sat impatiently explaining, “Look, I can get you a year suspended if you see a shrink. Not a bad deal for assault and battery on a bartender. All he did was say no. Shit, Matt, the witnesses said you lost your fucking mind.”

He tried unsuccessfully to flatten his upturned jacket collar. “Jesus, I suppose it was lucky that you did go off. Otherwise it would have been suicide. He was twice your size.”

“What kind of time do I get if I don’t take the deal?”

Simon sat there furiously inhaling his cigar. “You are crazy. Listen to yourself. It’s one thing to drink yourself to death, or even leave a bartender in a puddle, but jail? You know what happens to soft Jews? Prison doesn’t give the kind of help that you need.”

“I don’t feel soft right now.”

“By the time you’re out you won’t feel anything.”

“Sounds good to me.”

He kept tugging on his coat, “Well it shouldn’t. I’ve been watching you crawl deeper and deeper into a hole and I don’t much blame you. But bottom is bottom. Going to jail rather than seeing a psychologist just doesn’t cut it. Damn, how afraid can you be of them? You’re a fucking social worker.”

“I’m not a social worker anymore, Simon.”

“Whatever the hell you are isn’t going to be helped by the can, Matt. Take the deal.”

“Will this stick to my record?”

“I think we can do something about that.”

“Simon, is there anything ‘we’ can’t do something about?”

A small grin softened the irritability in his face. “You’ll take the deal?”

I thought about the interminable hours under the stark fluorescent light of the waiting room. “Get it off my record and I’ll take the deal. Hell, Lou doesn’t have anyone else to look after his damn investment.”

It was four years later, and every Thursday I still fought with myself about showing up at her office. I often didn’t make it, and hadn’t last week, but standing humiliated in my skivvies seemed like a tough cure.