Coming off the heels of the 8th Scudder novel in which Matt encounters his most dangerous adversary, Block created an impressive follow up Block gives Scudder plenty to do here, hitting him with two mysteries.
The surrounding cast within Scudder s universe both expands and develops nicely In fact, there s quite a bit of development His relationship with Elaine becomes a little defined and you do get that sense that something is going to have to change His friendship with Durkin becomes a little complicated at points and Mick Ballou is just as awesome as ever.
I will sneak this in here I ve read a lot of Chuck Palahniuk so I ve got a taste for over the top, disgusting events taking place Some of the stuff that Block throws in here is pretty uncharacteristic for the series up to this point While it didn t disturb me nor offend me, it was certainly unexpected.
In typical Block fashion basing this on the 8 other books I ve read , the ending is pretty quick The final pages are filled with action and suspense which wrap up the book excellently In fact, something rather significant occurs prompting Scudder to act in a way you probably couldn t predict.
I m going to say 4.
5 I really loved this book, I just can t put it on the same level as its predecessor.
Picking this one up I was not prepared for such a trip into dark and depraved waters This is than Scudder has ever gone up against previously and definitely the strongest in the series since Eight Million Ways To Die While we ve moved along in years out of the 80 s into the early 90 s, New York City continues to be a seething trap of anger and violence and desperation with all those ways to die and Scudder has stumbled upon yet another one This time, he didn t even go looking for it, not really It sort of finds him in a weird, chilling series of coincidences Two words snuff film Yeah, like I said, dark and depraved waters Scudder is moving along nicely in his life these days He s sober and regularly attending meetings He s got his girlfriend Elaine who one dewy eyed reviewer wistfully and with no irony whatsoever refers to as Matt s snuggle bunny no matter that she s a call girl and continues to see clients He s also forged a pretty meaningful friendship with Mick Ballou, the Irish gangster who may or may not have carried around some guy s head in a bowling ball bag, the man who proudly wears his father s blood stained butcher s apron and which of those stains are man or animal, nobody knows I keep coming back to these books mostly for Scudder He s such a great character to spend time with But also for the sense of time and place that Block is able to conjure I find the Scudder books act like time capsules in a way So much of the plotting of this story relies on VHS tapes and renting them from a video store It made me remember what that was like and how long it s been since I ve actually done it I remember when my family got its first VCR ever and it was this huge exciting moment, like we had finally arrived at a Jetsons version of the future And with Block, it s so authentic, because he s not writing these books from a 21st century perspective and recreating 1991, he actually wrote this one in 1991 without the long view and hindsight that we have as readers I love that That doesn t mean I m not looking forward to Scudder aging and getting Block s take on a 21st century New York I can t wait actually I ll wrap this up with a note on the ending holy shit snacks view spoiler If Scudder had done this in his heavy drinking days, I would have blamed it on the booze, but to do it stone cold sober, I m positively shocked Yet pleased Satisfied There was a time early on when I was so angry at Scudder for letting a child rapist walk free forcing him to donate money to Boys Town I was so disappointed with his lack of action then Well, no one can accuse him of lack of action here Decisive Unequivocal Was this justice or cold blooded murder I loved when Scudder tells Ballou about his mentor who told him you don t ever do something with your own hands you can get somebody else to do for you Well I guess Scudder decided that wasn t for him If this was going to happen, he was going to have blood on his hands to show for it I can respect that hide spoiler A few years ago I was talking to somebody in my cube at work, and the name of the small town I grew up in came up A woman who worked in the cube across the aisle from mine looked up and said that since I was from that town, that I must know of this other smaller town that was nearby I laughed and replied that my relatives made up 80% of the population of that town She asked if I was related to X He was my second cousin She was his ex wife We had worked across from each other for a year with no idea.
Weird little things like that happen all the time in real life, but if a writer incorporates coincidence into a mystery plot, the readers will generally turn up their nose and start booing Somehow using an unlikely link to advance a story seems like a cheat even though they do happen But Lawrence Block has never been afraid to throw some happenstance into his plots One of the recurring things in his various books is that New York is really a small town, it just has a lot of people in it, and that paths cross and recross all the time A Dance At The Slaughterhouse has a couple of big coincidences driving the plot, and ordinarily I would be the first to shout Foul Foul and heap scorn on the author However, in the context of Matt Scudder s life, the weird twists of fate seem completely natural And they help to create a great crime novel.
Richard Thurman and his wife supposedly interrupted a robbery He was roughed up and knocked unconscious She was raped and strangled A lot of people, including the cops, think that Thurman may have arranged the murder, but there s no proof Her brother hires Matt to try and dig up something that would let the cops press the case against Thurman.
While trailing Thurman to a boxing match, Matt sees a man make a casual gesture in the crowd It triggers the memory of a brutal SM snuff film that Matt had come across and briefly investigated the previous summer With little than a hunch, Matt starts following a trail that leads to the kinkiest and most twisted villains you can imagine.
Along the way, we learn that Matt is now dating Elaine, the high priced call girl, but it s not always easy having a hooker as your snuggle bunny Matt s friendship with the Irish gangster Mick Ballou has also grown to the point where the men trust each other with their deepest secrets Matt also meets TJ, a young black street hustler with a knack for digging up information, and he ll be another important player in future Scudder books.
What really makes this one memorable is the conclusion The wrap up is beyond shocking and surprised me again even reading this the second time Nine books into the series, Block still refused to allow Scudder to become a safe and predictable character, and it makes for yet another stunning crime novel This one won an Edgar Award for best mystery novel in 1992, and it damn well deserved it.
Matthew Scudder is hired to figure out if a TV anchor man killed his wife But what does that have to do with a snuff film a friend of Matt s found disguised as the Dirty Dozen at a video store Scudder really stepped in it this time The Stettners, and to a lesser extent Richard Thurman, the accused anchor, are perverts and psychopaths of the worst kind, the kind that prey on children I thought James Leo Motely in the previous Scudder book was the worst villain Block could come up with but I was wrong The thing about Block is that he gets you to see things Scudder s way While Scudder did something illegal and a little unsettling at the end, you agree that it had to be done.
The supporting cast continues to be one of the hallmarks of the series Danny Boy Bell, Elaine, Mick, Durkin, even TJ, give the series a little something extra.
A Dance At The Slaughterhouse is one of my top three favorite Scudder books so far I wouldn t start the Scudder series with it but it s quite a read.
5 StarsSometimes it s a dog eat dog world and the rest of the time it s the other way aroundThis year I ve realized that I m not that big of a fan of standard detective series They get too repetitive and frankly boring after a while It nearly broke my heart when I realized that I was starting to feel the same way about this book in Lawrence Block s Scudder series, arguably the top of the detective pack As I read, I started to notice the formula and the trends Once again, Scudder has to explain that he s not an official private detective, once again Scudder struggles with what to charge people for his services, even though he always seems to settle on the same price somewhere between 2 3K , and once again Scudder has a moment where he s unsatisfied with his work and considers giving the client a refund, even though he s never actually gone through with it yet I guess it s designed for the casual reader that might jump into the series at anytime, but for me it becomes a slog reading the same shit over and over At least in this book we were spared him having to explain why he s not a cop any I m a little tired of hearing that story too.
This time around Scudder takes on two cases that somehow end up connected, determining whether or not a TV producer was responsible for the rape and murder of his wife, as well as tracking down the masked sex killers in a grisly smut film he stumbles onto in the middle of watching a VHS rental of The Dirty Dozen This novel s plot developments were based on so many coincidences that the plotting seemed a bit lazy this time around But even with these issues that I personally had and the fact that this book lacks the emotional weight ofEight Million Ways To Die , the freshness ofWhen The Sacred Ginmill Closes , or the urgent danger ofA Ticket To The Boneyard , it s still as thoughtful, readable, and well written as any of the other novels in Block s Scudder series, with some cool characters and nasty villainsWe are closer than close, you and I We are brothers in blood and semenSo although it suffers from the usual stale repetitiveness as other later novels in most mystery series, it s still a Block novel so it s still one of the better detective books out there If you re going to read a repetitive detective series, this should be the one you readWell it s a hell of a story, he said And I guess you could say it has a happy ending, because you didn t drink and you aren t going to jail
A wealthy New York couple, Richard and Amanda Thurman, arrives home at their upscale apartment after a night on the town Several hours later, Richard punches out 9 1 1 with a pipe tool between his teeth, and the police arrive to find him beaten and tied up in the neighbors apartment immediately below his own Amanda Thurman, who was pregnant with the couple s first child, has been raped, beaten and strangled to death Thurman tells detectives that two men who had burgled the neighbors apartment were just leaving when the Thurmans were coming up the stairs The burglars forced the Thurmans into the apartment, bound and gagged him and committed the savage assault on his wife Hours later, Thurman was able to partially undo the gag and call the police The responding patrolmen found him with his hands and feet still bound Something doesn t sit right about his story with the detectives, but there s no evidence to contradict it.
The story doesn t sit right with Amanda Thurman s brother, either As a practical matter, all the money in the family belonged to Amanda who was also heavily insured The brother believes that Richard Thurman killed Amanda, and the brother hires Matthew Scudder to look into the matter.
Richard Thurman is a producer for a cable television company Scudder follows Thurman to a boxing arena where Thurman is producing a televised match While there, Scudder sees something apparently unrelated but deeply disturbing A few months earlier, another recovering alcoholic had approached Matt at an AA meeting, seeking his advice about a snuff film that had been taped over the middle of a commercial copy of The Dirty Dozen Matt looked into the matter but hit a dead end Then, at the boxing match, he sees a man whom he believes was the star of the snuff film.
From that point on, Matt divides his time between investigating Richard Thurman and the man in the snuff film As always, it s a gripping tale and a tour of what are, in this book especially, New York s very mean streets It s a very kinky and violent tale with some particularly nasty villains and a shattering conclusion.
A number of familiar characters put in an appearance, including Elaine Mardell and Mick Ballou, and Matt s relationship with both of them is growing deeper This is also the novel in which the street kid, TJ, first appears, and all in all, it s another great ride from Lawrence Block This book deservedly won the MWA s Edgar Award for best novel and is a terrific addition to the series.
I didn t love this 8 Matthew Scudder mystery by Lawrence Block I liked parts of it I loved the first several of them, focused on the psychology theology of an ex cop whose life is pretty much in ruins He s an alcoholic, and the publisher names these early stories crime novels, but they are really straight up novels with a developing existentialist theme running through them about this guy who just happens to be a detective with the emphasis on his emotional and physical recovery and not the details of the actual crimes The point is that he intuitively picks cases and doggedly pursues them because they seem connected in some way to his spiritual struggles Then, in 7, A Ticket to the Boneyard, the last one, things turn unrealistic, sloppy and grisly, where Scudder makes dumb mistakes he never would have made in the previous books in taking on a sadistic super villain And it s literally torture porn And the book is even torturously much longer than any of the earlier books And in the end Scudder makes a turn to the dark side What is going on, Block After seeing some of the Hollywood money, are we just now scripting outlandish movies Or are we descending into nihilism, ironically, after kicking the habit This book, Dance in the Slaughterhouse guess what happens in the end, from that title, but there s not really any dancing , now that Scudder is a dry alcoholic, continues the same mistake of largely swapping characterization and expiation of past sins for sensationalism, with crimes even MORE gruesome than in the last book Literally torture porn and other things I promise not to mention Quick, what re the worst things you can think of that humans might possibly do, make a list Let s put them in a book and make you read about each of these in the kind of painfully graphic detail we never saw in books 1 5 I had heard that Block thought the series would end with the triumphant Eight Million Ways to Die, a classic crime novel, but that he felt pressured by his success to somehow continue the series Either way, I think Block is by now spinning his wheels in this series, out of fresh ideas The existential crisis seems largely over, well, until that last scene of this book Oh, there re themes going on in this book and the last, that humans have always been capable of evil, and that things in New York are going straight down the toilet, and cops hands seem to be tied so you sometimes have to take things in your own hands, and that Matthew seems to be sucked into this void, but yeah, I saw Dirty Harry, I get it The villains here seem like cartoon characters, beyond evil, sexual murderers for fun, and who really needs to read about that The one great thing the book has going for it is that Scudder talks and talks often entertainingly in this book with several great characters we have come to like Elaine, his call girl girlfriend who was nearly murdered in the last book Joe Durkin, his buddy on the force, teen TJ, a talented sketch artist, and especially Mick, the now loveable, but still potentially murderous Irish gangster who he goes to the fights with Matt and who tries to get him to come along to Mass That after the slaughter we expected from the title we end up at Mass, with the unrepentant Scudder even taking Communion for reasons he can t name, that s cool, but it s kind of a coda in a book with less reflection per pound than any of the first five books It s the continuing Mick Matt connection in this book that raises it from two to three stars for me and will get me to continue reading Maybe.
The book begins well with descriptions of Scudder at the fights, lots of closely observed inside talk, but as we turn to the crimes to be solved, there seems to be no real discussion of the horrific, over the top events of the last book No psychological or physical after effects of the near death experience One reference early on is made about Elaine s physical devastation, in a JOKE between Elaine and Matt In fact, this is a problem with some of the typically tight and clever Block dialogue in this book it is sometimes too clever, too cute, too jokey, when the content actually sometimes involves sorry child murder, among many other terrible things Well, I don t like it, we didn t have to go that far into the sewer, and thematically, it feels like a lazy, too easy distraction The early Scudder books are tight and taut and lean, but this one is half again as long, bloated in the middle, and it just may be the most brutal, ugly book I may have read in a long time So I will depart from the majority love showered on this book by my respected Goodreads reviewer colleagues Make your own decision, though This book won the 1992 Edgar Award for best mystery novel, so a lot of people like it.
A Dance At The Slaughterhouse may not have the most inspired name, but this 9th entry in Lawrence Block s inimitable series of novels starring Matthew Scudder a reformed alcoholic and an ex dirty cop who now makes a living as an unlicensed PI stands as yet another beacon of excellence in a line up of absurdly high quality mysteries that prove, again and again, the unique literary traits and themes that a well written genre novel can reckon with unlike any other game in town, and does so in a manner rife with subtlety and panache In short this book is the shit, yo This novel begins in territory well treaded in earlier entries Scudder is paid to figure out whether or not some slick and sleazy husband did in the old ball n chain But this case of uxoricide is thrown for a disturbing and kinky loop when a one in a million coincidence sets our melancholy and thoughtful hero s sights on a pair of fetishistic killers who get their kicks making snuff films.
All the hallmarks of the series are set on hyper drive this time around dialogue that is addicting and packed with memorable broodings on death descriptions of New York City that, while terse, are evocative and gritty prose that is succinct yet never bland or clich a rogue s gallery of supporting characters that you wish were your own friends and an ending that is unexpected, shocking, punk rock, and utterly satisfying.
Lawrence Block is the kind of writer that all you two bit jabronis out there who think they can make an honest killing at being an author like me should read and learn from, whether or not you like mystery novels or you happen to think you re the cat s pajamas and can t be arsed with such disposable literature subext blow me.
In a series of emotionally ravaging and existentially sobering gems, A Dance At The Slaughterhouse ranks as one of the best.
Reading this book, a few elements rang true First, I lived in New York City at the time this book was set and as Scudder wandered around Manhattan, it had a ghostly reality for me, bringing up places I vaguely remember and I time I can almost recall Second, Scudder is a recovering alcoholic and I ve known my share of them in my lifetime and Block is right on the money as he draws out Scudder s continuing battle with the tendencies that drove him to drinking in the first place all the while struggling to hold onto his sobriety dealing with a horrific case Given the scenario Block has created, it s difficult to see how Scudder managed to stay on the wagon His investigative job draws him into the world of view spoiler snuff pornography hide spoiler In Matt Scudder S Mind, Money, Power, And Position Elevate Nobody Above Morality And The Law Now The Ex Cop And Unlicensed Pi Has Been Hired To Prove That Socialite Richard Thurman Orchestrated The Brutal Murder Of His Beautiful, Pregnant Wife During Scudder S Hard Drinking Years, He Left A Piece Of His Soul On Every Seedy Corner Of The Big Apple But This Case Is Depraved And Potentially Devastating Than Anything He Experienced While Floundering In The Urban Depths Because This Investigation Is Leading Scudder On A Frightening Grand Tour Of New York S Sex For Sale Underworld Where An Innocent Young Life Is Simply A Commodity To Be Bought And Perverted And Then Destroyed