The novel is about Daniel Morley, a man with a self-proclaimed fetish for the scarf he always wears - a scarf which he received from his high school English teacher who--so Morley says--tried to rape him and he killed in self-defense. This earned Morley a degree of fame early in his life, but not the kind anyone really wants, and he spends the next decade wandering as something of a ne'er-do-well, committing minor crimes, grifting, but always carrying with him the scarf - with which he has killed multiple times, essentially whenever he feels a woman is becoming too close to him emotionally. Morley's dream, however, is to become a writer and he resolves to give up his past and start fresh, hopefully as a rich and famous novelist. And it seemingly works out well - for a while, anyway, until that old "fetish" rears its ugly head again.
The Scarf, told in a first-person narrative with an inherently unreliable narrator, is basically the story of a man trying to save himself from himself and we're kept in suspense as Morley tries, taking increasingly extraordinary steps, to do so. Where Bloch's mastery of psychological fiction shows through, though, is that he doesn't try to make Morley sympathetic, as many authors would try to do. Morley is a deranged, vile scumbag. We're wondering if he'll succeed while hoping he doesn't and as Bloch, and Morley himself via his journal he calls "The Black Notebook", gives us more insight into his background, we wonder if all is as it seems.
Of course, since it's Bloch, it's not and one of my favorite things about this novel is that, unlike Psycho, the ending is completely natural to the story and the character. Don't get me wrong, I like Psycho a lot, but the ending, with its forced exposition to make sense of the scenario, felt just that - forced. When we are shown the "secret" behind Morley's history, everything in The Scarf neatly makes sense.
Do yourself a favor and track this one down. It's worth it.