Book Review: When Favors For Friends Turn Fatal

When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (Matthew Scudder Series) by Lawrence Block (2002-04-30)

When the Sacred Ginmill Closes is a crime novel by one of the acclaimed masters of the genre, Lawrence Block. It was first published in 1986 and features unlicensed private eye Matthew Scudder. This is not the first one in there series, but it was the first one I have read. Yeah, I read stuff out of order sometimes.

Scudder is a former NYPD cop who makes his living kind of doing favors or off the books investigations. He lives in a motel and spends a lot of time in bars because he is an alcoholic, in case I need to spell it out. I found Scudder a bit more compelling than I expected. He does have morals than are respectable and somewhat honorable. The man has his demons and sometimes doesn’t play well with others, but he is not hard to root for.

In this particular story, Scudder finds himself in the middle of a bar stick-up that has something more than it first seems. He also is asked by one of his bar buddies to look into his wife’s murder to help make sure that he is not left on the hook for the crime. There’s a good deal of extortion and betrayal peppered throughout the journey to complicate Scudder’s life further. There is also lots and lots of boozing to help get through these challenging times.

I am not sure why it has taken me this long to read a Lawrence Block novel, and I am a ,little too cynical to immediately say that am now an avid fan after just one book. I will say that I am intrigued enough to try other works by Mr. Block though. There is no question that he is a talented writer. Sometimes, the bar scenes could feel a little stifling because Scudder frequents them so much, which is understandable considering his compulsion. When he is actually focused on his investigations and his instincts seem to be firing correctly, Scudder actually has a certain style I like. The story is written in first person, so the reader gets a pretty intimate look at his thought process.

I have known the name Lawrence Block for some time, and he is very highly regarded within the genre of crime fiction. Now that I have read one of his books, I suspect that regard is actually very well-earned. I have another Block novel in my growing collection of things to read, but I will save that for later.

I will read a debut novel from a newer denizen into the world of published authors. A major movie has been released or about to be released based on my next reading selection. It’s hard to keep track with COVID 19 interfering with my cinematic expectations. Anyway, I will next be learning what was seen by The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn.

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