Wednesday 5 June 2013



Nobody knows better than Matthew Scudder how far down a person can sink in this city. A young prostitute named Kim knew it also—and she wanted out. Maybe Kim didn't deserve the life fate had dealt her. She surely didn't deserve her death. The alcoholic ex-cop turned PI was supposed to protect her, but someone slashed her to ribbons on a crumbling New York City waterfront pier. Now finding Kim's killer will be Scudder's penance. But there are lethal secrets hiding in the slain hooker's past that are far dirtier than her trade. And there are many ways of dying in this cruel and dangerous town—some quick and brutal ... and some agonizingly slow.

My fifth and probably most enjoyable book so far in this prolific author’s series of 17 books to date. On the front cover of my edition, Stephen King blurbs “A hell of a book!” Whilst on the odd occasion I may take exception to King’s recommendations and disagree, not this time around. The book also won the Shamus Award for Best Hardcover PI Novel in 1982.

When I say probably, I will qualify it by saying I was a little bit disappointed in the resolution of the crime and the motivations and raison d’être for the protagonist acting the way he/she did – I’ll leave it ambiguous to avoid spoiling anyone’s subsequent reading of the book. It’s a minor gripe to be honest, but it was a little bit of a niggle for me just the same.         

Kim, a good-time girl for hire, wants out of the game. Scudder is asked to speak to Kim’s pimp, Chance on her behalf to arrange this. Chance, once Scudder has spoken to him has no objections and an amicable arrangement is reached. Kim is murdered a few short days later. After overcoming his initial scepticism, believing her pimp is responsible for the killing; Matt is engaged by Chance to track down the killer, with Chance correctly believing that now he has been eliminated from the list of suspects, the cops will scale back the investigation giving it a low priority. Scudder, with lead detective Durkin’s approval, makes his usual diligent enquiries, doggedly moving closer to some answers.

The mystery in itself was fairly interesting, but for me the best parts of the book, and the other Scudder’s I have read, chart Scudder’s daily routine, his interactions with his associates and “friends”, and his general separateness. He’s in a city of eight million people and he’s lonely.      

My main enjoyment was derived from the characters prominent in the book and the subsequent inter-play between them. Chance, a likeable black pimp; educated, elusive, enigmatic, caring and considered in everything he did and Scudder, who at the end manages to let his stoic, steely mask slip showing his frailty. His humanity has never been in doubt, but seeing this side of him, as he tries to tackle his alcoholism was endearing.

Looking forward to book six next month – When The Sacred Ginmill Closes...err actually this month, as Eight Million should have been done and dusted in May.

My earlier reviews in the series are as follows;

A Stab In The Dark      

4 stars from 5

I bought or swapped my copy a long, long time ago from I know not where.



  1. Col - I couldn't agree more about this series. The real draw for me is Scudder's character. I also like the way he develops over time as the series goes on. And this one really is a good 'un.

    1. Margot, definitely one of the best. Perhaps a case for an In the Spotlight post? You know you want to!

  2. Great review, Col. Whets my desire to get back to reading this series. (I have only read the first, although at some time I read one or more back in the distant past.) I may be wrong, because I have not read enough of his books to really judge, but I don't think Lawrence Block can write a bad book. He always entertains.

    1. Thanks, Tracy. I've not read a bad one of his yet, fingers crossed that continues!

  3. Great review, Col. I am a Lawrence Block fan but have mostly read his John Keller books that feature a hit man. Very good reads. I so enjoyed When the Sacred Ginmill Closes. I need to read more in this series.

    1. Keishon thanks. I'll be reading "Ginmill" soon, plus I'm planning on continuing with John Keller, once Scudder is done, only a year to wait!