Wednesday, January 12, 2011

When the Sacred Ginmill Closes by Lawrence Block

When the Sacred Ginmill ClosesWhen the Sacred Ginmill Closes by Lawrence Block

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'll be honest, I'm sticking with this series primarily because of the author's reputation, though Eight Million Ways to Die did impress me. I was fairly dismayed when I started this book and it looked like all the progress that Scudder made during his outing was tossed out without explanation or comment. A relapse, or backslide, etc. would've been acceptable if Block had done it right (obviously), but to just start off the book without noting that he'd fallen off the wagon was just horrible.

Thankfully, he didn't waste too much time before he had Scudder inform us that this was an extended flashback. That done, we could see Scudder not at his alcoholic worst, just pretty bad--probably before the first book in the series, now that I think of it. Then he brought us back to the present at the conclusion of the novel, making the whole exercise mean something. What made me ready to toss the whole series at the beginning, in the end made a pretty effective novel. It's not a trick that he can use more than once, I think--and my gut says Block wouldn't try.

As far as the mysteries that make up Scudder's cases? Marginally interesting, at best. I've yet to be really impressed by the whodunit aspect of Block's books, it's how Scudder interacts with the suspects/victims/survivors that makes them interesting--especially as he interacts with himself. But one of the two mysteries here is about as strong as he gets, and the other is about as weak as he gets., whatever.

If you like Matt Scudder, this book will satisfy you. If you've never encountered him before, I'm not sure this is the book to start with.

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