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by Lawrence Block
Mulholland, May 2011
320 pages
ISBN: 0316127337

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Author Lawrence Block has won every type of writer's award given in the field of mystery writing, and his lead character, Matthew Scudder, has been around since 1975. This all points not just to the longevity of Block's career, but to the skills required to keep developing interesting new plots.

A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF, Block's latest finds his long-time crime solver Matthew Scudder challenged by his own search for sobriety. He's tested by his surroundings, particularly by his favorite client meeting places, usually the local watering hole. While attending one of the countless number of AA meetings in New York City that Scudder now goes to each week, he runs into a childhood friend.

Scudder hasn't seen "High-Low" Jack Ellery since he was a cop and spotted him in a line-up many years ago. Jack has taken the opposite career path from Scudder, but ironically, they have ended up in the same place, an AA meeting. Jack has been sober for a couple of years and is working on "making amends" as part of the 12-step process. Scudder is closing in on his first year anniversary, a dangerous time in his quest…or so everyone tells him.

There will be plenty of temptation and missteps along the way once Scudder is hired to look into Jack's murder, which occurs shortly after Scudder and Ellery meet again. Jack's sponsor feels responsible for being a "step Nazi" (forcing Jack to deal with his past and make amends to those whom he has hurt along the way) and hires Scudder to quietly look into the murder. He also has some key information for the search, a list of those Ellery wronged.

There are plenty of interesting characters along the way to the discovery of whodunit, and Block truly excels at creating these personalities. He also gives an honest look at the recovery process (at least to an outsider). His characters are likable, vulnerable, and always keep the reader guessing who's a good guy and who's not. He also uses nicknames to great effect, and High-Low Jack's own moniker will provide a clue to his likely murderer. All in all, the latest installment from Lawrence Block is an enjoyable ride, with plenty of fascinating characters along the journey.

§ Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, May 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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