Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Listened: A Stab in the Dark" by Lawrence Block

Listened: A Stab in the Dark by Lawrence Block, 1981, overdrive.com download and I do not recall the year for the audio version.

Fourth in the Matthew Scudder series and the earliest one I have read/heard. Scudder is still drinking at this point but the end of the novel has him wondering. He almost attends an AA meeting, but gets nervous and decides a drink will calm his nerves.

I'd thought Scudder hit rock bottom after his on-the-job shooting and was on the wagon by the first book.  Nope. Scudder is a functioning alcoholic. He is out solving crimes but every day involves bourbon. (I think Eight Million Ways to Die has Scudder in AA, but I might be getting the novels confused with the film adaptations.)

Anyhoo. New York's Ice Pick Killer of eight years ago has finally been caught. But, the killer says he is not responsible for one of the killings and he has a rock solid alibi - he was sent to a mental hospital. That single victim's father wants Scudder to look into the old case and see what he can see. Scudder actually caught the murder eight years ago until the case was sent to the Ice Pick task force. A former police colleague refers The Dad to Scudder, Scudder says yes. Scudder accepts $1,500 to look into things.

The case is very cold. But, Scudder doesn't have much else to do. He left his wife and kids years ago. He has no pets. His friends are few. Heck, there are bars all over New York so he can travel the boroughs and belt bourbon when he wants. Scudder also acknowledges that he can be a bulldog on cases. He'll dig to China to satisfy his own need for answers.

The victim was killed in her kitchen. Stabbed several times with an ice pick. And she was pregnant. Scudder tracks down old friends, he first husband, neighbors, work mates, anyone. He begins to build a picture of Dead Woman. Along the way we meet shifty cops. Casual drinkers. Happy divorcees. Unhappy married people. Take another Block tour of New York. Scudder starts a relationship with a drinking woman.

Scudder wraps things up in the end. He catches a couple lies and the killer confesses. Scudder novels are never really about the mystery - this one is pretty straightforward anyway. The story is about Scudder, humanity, human behavior and life.

1. Film adaptations. I don't recall much of the Jeff Daniels movie but the Lian Neeson flick was good.
2. Twelve Hard Case crime titles - Including forthcoming books.
3. Let's get back to sucking up to Block.
4. Oh, Mr. Block, you are so wonderful. Your humor and thoughtfulness come through with every word. Your literary brilliance is akin to a star. I'm so very glad you have produced so many wonderful works. I promise to stop confusing you with Donald Westlake and Ed McBain. Especially since those two are dead.

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