Thursday, 14 March 2019

LAWRENCE BLOCK - A TIME TO SCATTER STONES (2019)


Synopsis/blurb.....

MATT SCUDDER RETURNS. More than 40 years after his debut and nearly a decade since his last appearance, one of the most renowned characters in all of crime fiction is back on the case in this major new novella by Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Lawrence Block. 

Well past retirement age and feeling his years - but still staying sober one day at a time - Matthew Scudder learns that alcoholics aren't the only ones who count the days since their last slip. Matt's longtime partner, Elaine, tells him of a group of former sex workers who do something similar, helping each other stay out of the life. But when one young woman describes an abusive client who's refusing to let her quit, Elaine encourages her to get help of a different sort. The sort only Scudder can deliver. 

A Time to Scatter Stones offers not just a gripping crime story but also a richly drawn portrait of Block's most famous character as he grapples with his own mortality while proving to the younger generation that he's still got what it takes. 

For Scudder's millions of fans around the world (including the many who met the character through Liam Neeson's portrayal in the film version of A Walk Among the Tombstones), A Time to Scatter Stones is an unexpected gift - a valedictory appearance that will remind readers why Scudder is simply the best there is.

From Booklist (Starred Review)
"Block's unlicensed New York City investigator Matt Scudder debuted 40 years ago but has been absent for the last decade... Block has never been predictable, as this novella demonstrates... A superb book and a reminder to his longtime fans that this crime-fiction master hasn't lost his touch."

From Publishers Weekly  
"If brevity keeps all the usual supporting characters from returning, some nice nostalgic mentions will reassure fans that they haven't been forgotten. It's good to see Matt back in action."

This ebook edition of A Time to Scatter Stones also includes as a bonus Lawrence Block's introduction to his new Subterranean Press anthology, At Home in the Dark.

A new Scudder tale about 10 years after the last and a cause for celebration around these parts.

Humour, sex, companionship, the ageing process, on-point everyday observations, a Prostitutes Anonymous self help group - think AA for sex workers, sobriety, a threat to a friend and one more case for Matt.

Not too long, but long enough to savour and enjoy some more time spent in the company of an older, slower, slightly less sharp Scudder. It is interesting seeing Matt acknowledge his decline as he endeavours to track down the mystery client who has been threatening Elaine's friend, after she informed him of her decision to stop offering her services for sale.   

I liked the investigation, the characters introduced and encountered along the way - the sketch artist, the janitor. I enjoyed the pace of the story and the outcome for our villain and the icing on the cake -  the post-case outcome for Matt, Elaine and the friend (name escapes me).

Let's hope he makes another comeback in say another five years time.

4.5 from 5

Lawrence Block has written a zillion novels in his time, including 17 full length Scudder novels and at least half a dozen short stories featuring Matt. It's a series I intend to return to. My reading thus far has stalled at about the sixth entry.

Read - February, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 93
Source - review copy from author
Format - ePub file read on laptop

11 comments:

  1. Ah, you can't go far wrong with a Scudder story, can you, Col? And it's interesting to see how Block is dealing with Scudder's getting older. It's not easy to do that well. The story itself sounds solid, too (not that I'm surprised at that). Glad you enjoyed.

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    1. Loved it Margot. There seems to have been a mixed reaction to it, with some readers preferring than Scudder had stayed retired or in hibernation. Not me though!

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  2. Great stuff Col will have to read this. Nice to get a comment from the man himself too! I've gone back to the start and am reading Sins of the Fathers at the moment.

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    1. Simon I think you'll enjoy this one when you work your forwards to it.

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  3. Guess you were in clover when this one arrived in your mailbox, Col! How much of the 93 pages does the novella occupy and how much the free sample from the antho?

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    1. Like a dog with two dic......err tails. Starts at 7% after an intro etc, finshes at 94% - 80 odd pages of actual tale, which is well worth seeking out IMO.

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  4. 'Review copy from the author' - you king of the crime bloggers you! As a fellow-fan, I am impressed, and will go for this. Hit Man is my favourite, but Scudder is a great character.

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    1. Ha, he's a very kind man. I very much doubt I'd fall into that category but I was chuffed.

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  5. I will have to re-introduce myself to Matt Scudder. It has been a while since I have read any of those books.

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    1. Me too, I think I stalled on the series back in 2013 - too long really without getting back to it. Ditto Nameless and Pronzini.

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