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The Gutter and the Grave (Hard Case Crime Novels) Mass Market Paperback – 12 Apr 2011

14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 217 pages
  • Publisher: Hard Case Crime (12 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857683675
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857683670
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 1.6 x 17.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 411,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By CC on 20 May 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I bought this book based on the review i read here. And i was not disappointed.

The book was well written and kept me turning the ages into the small hours. The main character was gritty and everything a good, hard boiled detective should be; unkept alcoholic who, despite appearances is good with the ladies.

However, i figured out early on in the book who done it and felt that Matt Cordell, the detective should have caught on earlier as well.

But having said this, i was not disappointed with the book and have been looking up more stories with this character in it.

Well worth the money, and i highly recommend it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Foggy Tewsday VINE VOICE on 3 Jun. 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
There are a few improbabilities in this story, things that, in terms of suspended disbelief, you have to wonder if the author might expect too much from his readership. An ex-detective has been living as a homeless alcoholic for five years after the collapse of his marriage. He takes on a case of theft as a favour to an old acquaintance. This case quickly turns into one of murder. Our hero's mind has not become completely stewed thanks to the demon drink, though. He still possesses remarkable athleticism and stereotypical prowess with the ladies.

And yet, this is a rattling good yarn. Ed McBain was truly a master of his craft. I can't claim to have read many books by him (in fact, the only other book I've read by him is `The Blackboard Jungle' which he wrote as Evan Hunter), but I know good writing when I see it, and I see it here. This novel was originally published in 1958 under one of McBain's other pseudonyms, Curt Cannon, under the title `I'm Cannon - For Hire'.

Our hero, Matt Cordell, tells this story in the first person, and, thanks to McBain's superlative writing, the story comes to life amid New York's steaming hot summer. The dialogue is wonderfully snappy, in the manner of a classic film noir. I had Bogart's voice in my head as I read Cordell's narration. There are also some wonderfully descriptive passages. In particular, there's a scene where Cordell wants to question a musician who's taking part in a late night jam session. McBain's writing is so sharp that you can hear the music as he describes the musicians' actions. You can imagine the smoky, sweaty scene as the players do their stuff in front of their rapt audience. Cordell opines that, "racial prejudice would evaporate if everyone were taught to play an instrument.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kitschy on 20 Jun. 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The Gutter and the Grave (2005) was first published in 1958 with Ed McBain writing under the name "Curt Cannon". The intent was seemingly to write in the style of Mickey Spillane - creating a hard-hitting, self-loathing, dame-packed private eye. And, to some degree, he hits the mark. Matt Cordell is a bum - he was once a detective, but after being betrayed by his wife, he's been spending the past few years drinking himself into ruin. An old friend, Johnny Bridges, manages to entice Cordell back into the business. Matt's engaged to poke around Bridges' tailor shop in search of a petty thief, but as soon as the two enter the premises, they find the dead body of Bridges' partner. Johnny is hauled off to jail and accused of murder - leaving the bewildered Matt to try and exonerate him.

Unlike the two books above, The Gutter and the Grave is a proper mystery-mystery with murders and whodunnits. Matt uncovers a tangled nest of adultery, blackmail and violence. He also uncovers a perpetual stream of beautiful women: a sleek blonde singer, a fulsome brunette "cheesecake" model and a perky redheaded nurse. Despite Matt's disheveled appearance (he has been on Skid Row for years), he's still a hit with the ladies. And, as we quickly learn, he's also dangerous with his fists. Matt thumps the baddies, shags the ladies and saves the day.

Matt Cordell is a pretty improbably hero, but, despite that, he's a likeable one. He's got a code of honor and a quick wit - two things that make for an endearing protagonist in any vintage paperback. As one of his many ladyfriends points out, his traumatic past only makes him more appealing: he wears his emotional scars like a badge, challenging any new woman to make him forget the old one.

This isn't McBain's best, but even the author's middling efforts still make for great reading. Part of the Hard Case Crime mission is to bring back some of the best in vintage crime, and an almost-lost early McBain certainly qualifies.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Matt Cordell was a private investigator once. Now he drinks all day, panhandling and sleeping in flophouses. All because of a woman: Cordell found his beautiful wife in bed with his partner, beat his face to a pulp, almost ended up in prison, escaped a conviction with the loss of a private detective license.

An old acquaintance finds swollen and smelly Cordell in one of the parks of New York. Ex-P.I. has not seen his pal for more than five years. Friend, Johnny, asks for help with a small problem at work: in his tailor shop there were thefts from cash register for six months, and Johnny suspects a business partner, Dom Archese. After long persuading, Cordell agrees to help Johnny look into the thefts at the shop, where they find Archese shot to death, and written on the wall with chalk Johnny’s initials “J.B.”. Cordell offers Johnny to surrender to police and become a police chief suspect, and Cordell promises to find the killer and clear Johnny’s name.

I think this is the first novel by McBain, which I read, and I think it will not be the last. McBain, mostly familiar to readers as the author of police procedurals, keeps steadily on private detectives field. How often have you read detective stories where the detective would have been drunk and a bum? Cordell during the investigation partially stays on the wagon, and it is to his own advantage: the detective will find the murderer by the end.

McBain plays by the rules, gradually introducing all the suspects, throwing tips and clues and allowing the reader to figure out the killer. Even though the novel inhabits some cliches and banalities, The Gutter and The Grave reads with gusto. McBain here even parodies the famous trick when beaten detective escapes from the hospital to continue the investigation.
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