Eight Million Ways To Die
It seems as though I have always been a fan of Lawrence Block’s mysteries, discovering in high school his series of "Burglar Who" books (such as The Burglar Who Liked To Quote Kipling) featuring Bernie Rhodenbarr, the memorable used book dealer who moonlighted as a professional thief. And I have previously read a number of the later books featuring recovering alcoholic private investigator Matthew Scudder. So when I came upon this just recently released special twenty-fifth anniversary edition of the fifth Scudder novel, which was first published back in 1982 (the year I graduated High School, yikes). As the author explains in an after word this novel is particularly important in that it is the first in the series where the character begins confronting his own problems with alcohol and stops drinking for the first time.
Eight Million Ways To Die is set against the dramatic NY Post-headlined crime ridden late seventies in New York City and Block plays skillfully off the daily headlines of senseless crimes that plague New York, quite irrespective of Scudder’s current case which involves the murder of a classy call girl who had just announced her resignation to her pimp, who in turn hires Scudder to figure out what happened. It turned out she was killed by some Columbian gentlemen who were ripped off by the call girl’s secret boyfriend, a jewler who got grabby with the merchandise when handling the sale of some high quality Columbian emeralds.
Scudders pursuit of the case plays out against the minute by minute day by day task of Not Drinking and attending AA meetings as well as the many, many personal and business meetings an investigator must go through each day. As always Block is a gifted storyteller and the tale moves smoothly along from start to finish. If you’re a Block fan already, this one is certainly a Must Read and this would be an excellent place for anyone to dip a first toe into Block and the Scudder novels. Highly Recommended.