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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A shiny new edition of an excellent '80s mystery, 21 Feb 2008
David Roy (Vancouver, BC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Eight Million Ways to Die (Matthew Scudder Mysteries) (Hardcover)
It's 2008, and it's the 25th anniversary of the Lawrence Block's Eight Million Ways to Die. So let's put out a celebratory edition! I've never read a Block book, so I'm not sure why this particular book warrants a re-issue in a special hardcover, but it does mark a significant milestone in Matt Scudder's career, so maybe that's why. This handsome hardcover also includes an afterword by Block, so fans of the Scudder series may want to pick this up to at least read that. For non-fans of the series, you can pick it up because it's a very good book.

If you're like me, you'll have to keep reminding yourself that Eight Million Ways to Die was written back in 1983. I kept asking why the characters didn't use cell phones until I remembered. Also, the image of New York as a crime-infested city kept jarring with the way it is now. The title of the book is said by a cynical cop who claims that there are eight million ways to die in New York. While there are probably still quite a few, I don't think there are that many any more.

Block does immerse you in the seedy atmosphere of the New York of 1983, though. His imagery is quite stark, and he constantly has Scudder reading the newspaper, pulling out headlines and news stories about how certain innocent people were killed, and commenting on how these will quickly get relegated to the back pages as something even more monstrous hits the front page. This atmosphere constantly weighs Scudder (and the reader) down, but at least the reader can put the book down if it gets too oppressive. What can Scudder do?

Scudder is an extremely interesting character, and evidently one who changes throughout his series of books. His alcoholism has been a constant presence in previous books, and this is the one where it comes to a head. He's constantly going to AA meetings, commenting on the speakers but not speaking up himself when it comes to his turn. He just can't see himself in these people, despite knowing that he has a problem. There's an interesting running plot element regarding this bottle of Wild Turkey in Kim's apartment, something that keeps attracting him even if he's not there investigating something.

While most of the characters are fairly one-dimensional, serving their purpose in the story and perhaps having one or two identifying traits, Chance himself also stands out as an extremely interesting character. He finds himself being drawn to Scudder, telling him things that he would never tell anyone else. He's an extremely deep character, almost as much as Scudder, and we find ourselves wondering how he's going to turn out as well. When he disappears for a while, I almost found myself dreading that Scudder would find out he got murdered as well.

Block's hard-boiled prose is excellent in Eight Million Ways to Die, and it's definitely what will make me go back and eventually read other books in this series. It's almost a contradiction, sinking into the muck that is New York while also feeling slightly optimistic as Matt comes closer and closer to redemption. It can be brutal at times, but he doesn't revel in the carnage. He doesn't hide from it, but he doesn't dwell on it either, except when Scudder himself does as he's trying to fight off temptation yet again. Block's dialogue is top notch as well, giving the book a noir feel that draws you in.

Eight Million Ways to Die is an excellent novel, and you don't have to worry that you're coming into it in the middle of a series. As a standalone, it's an excellent examination of an alcoholic detective's life. As part of a series, it's a turning point. Either way, you'll lose yourself in the past as 1983 rears its ugly head again. Scudder is great character, and this is a great book.

David Roy
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deadly Thrills, 10 Oct 2002
Mr. Warren M. Fisher (East Grinstead, West Sussex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Only my second Matt Scudder mystery, but already I'm hooked. Block has been lauded as the grandmaster of the modern PI novel, and I have no problem with this. A dark, tormented hero on a quest to right a terrible wrong in a brutal, unforgiving world, what more could you want? Intelligent, gripping and thrillingly authentic.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine crime thriller, 18 Dec 2000
By A Customer
Private eye Matt Scudder is one of the finest creations in crime fiction. This book brings to life all the colourful characters and bizaare scenes of New York, and uses them to deliver a highly enjoyable crime story. The Matt Scudder novels are also the most realistic account of alcoholism I have ever read. Definitely worth reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Top read from a top author., 14 Jun 2013
col2910 (Bedfordshire,UK) - See all my reviews
Nobody knows better than Matthew Scudder how far down a person can sink in this city. A young prostitute named Kim knew it also--and she wanted out. Maybe Kim didn't deserve the life fate had dealt her. She surely didn't deserve her death. The alcoholic ex-cop turned PI was supposed to protect her, but someone slashed her to ribbons on a crumbling New York City waterfront pier. Now finding Kim's killer will be Scudder's penance. But there are lethal secrets hiding in the slain hooker's past that are far dirtier than her trade. And there are many ways of dying in this cruel and dangerous town--some quick and brutal ... and some agonizingly slow.

My fifth and probably most enjoyable book so far in this prolific author's series of 17 books to date. On the front cover of my edition, Stephen King blurbs "A hell of a book!" Whilst on the odd occasion I may take exception to King's recommendations and disagree, not this time around. The book also won the Shamus Award for Best Hardcover PI Novel in 1982.

When I say probably, I will qualify it by saying I was a little bit disappointed in the resolution of the crime and the motivations and raison d'Ítre for the protagonist acting the way he/she did - I'll leave it ambiguous to avoid spoiling anyone's subsequent reading of the book. It's a minor gripe to be honest, but it was a little bit of a niggle for me just the same.

Kim, a good-time girl for hire, wants out of the game. Scudder is asked to speak to Kim's pimp, Chance on her behalf to arrange this. Chance, once Scudder has spoken to him has no objections and an amicable arrangement is reached. Kim is murdered a few short days later. After overcoming his initial scepticism, believing her pimp is responsible for the killing; Matt is engaged by Chance to track down the killer, with Chance correctly believing that now he has been eliminated from the list of suspects, the cops will scale back the investigation giving it a low priority. Scudder, with lead detective Durkin's approval, makes his usual diligent enquiries, doggedly moving closer to some answers.

The mystery in itself was fairly interesting, but for me the best parts of the book, and the other Scudder's I have read, chart Scudder's daily routine, his interactions with his associates and "friends", and his general separateness. He's in a city of eight million people and he's lonely.

My main enjoyment was derived from the characters prominent in the book and the subsequent inter-play between them. Chance, a likeable black pimp; educated, elusive, enigmatic, caring and considered in everything he did and Scudder, who at the end manages to let his stoic, steely mask slip showing his frailty. His humanity has never been in doubt, but seeing this side of him, as he tries to tackle his alcoholism was endearing.

Looking forward to book six next month - When The Sacred Ginmill Closes...err actually this month, as Eight Million should have been done and dusted in May.

4 stars from 5
I bought or swapped my copy a long, long time ago from I know not where.
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5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, 22 Jan 2013
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a treat to find a matt scudded book i had not already read. if you are lucky enough not to have discovered bloch do so you have hours of pleasure ahead
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece, 21 Aug 2012
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One of the great noir novels - successful on so many unexpected levels - it's been a joy to turn people onto this book over the last twenty years.
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Eight Million Ways to Die (Matthew Scudder Mysteries)
Eight Million Ways to Die (Matthew Scudder Mysteries) by Lawrence Block (Hardcover - Jan 2008)
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