Matt Scudder, the recovering alcoholic private eye from The Devil Knows You're Dead and A Ticket to the Boneyard, embarks on another descent into the nightmarish quarters of New York, this time to investigate the sex-for-sale industry. Hired by the brother of an heiress to investigate her rape and murder, Scudder tails her husband to a boxing match and notices another man whom he saw on video a few months earlier on a different case involving a snuff film. As Scudder calls on old friends for assistance and tours New York's dark physical and social landscapes, Block masterfully builds the pressure that leads Scudder to the violent resolution in this winner of the 1992 Edgar Award for best mystery novel.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful: Best noir writer working today!, June 11, 2002 Reviewer: Dave Schwinghammer from Little Falls, Minnesota USA I'd never heard of Lawrence Block until I read one of his short stories, "The Merciful Angel of Death" in THE NEW MYSTERY anthology, edited by Jerome Charyn. I liked the story so much that I was thrilled to find he also wrote novels, which led to A DANCE AT THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE and Matt Scudder. Since then I've read all of the Scudder mysteries and buy the newest one as soon as I hear about it. So what's so good about Scudder? He's a great character for one thing. He's a recovering alcoholic, a detective without a license, a former cop who left his wife and kids. And he's got some of the seediest friends you'll ever meet. An albino pimp. Mick Ballou, a bar owner who kills people. A high-classed prostitute girlfriend. Then there's T.J., his street-smart partner with a facility for computers. Scudder walks or takes the subway wherever he goes. He putters around, drinking coffee, going to AA meetings, donating money to the church (any church) when he gets paid for a case. He never seems to make any progress, but his perambulations give us a chance to see New York. Then he finds a tiny thread here, another there, and before we know he's cooking with gas. In A DANCE AT THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE Scudder takes on the Amanda Thurman murder case. After attending a small dinner party on Central Park West, Richard and Amanda Thurman return to their brownstone on West Fifty-second Street, only to be confronted by burglars who draw guns and herd them into their apartment. They steal his watch, wallet, and Amanda's jewelry, beat Richard, tie him up and tape his mouth; then they rape his wife in front of him. Richard manages to knock the phone off the table, free the tape from his mouth, and call 911. But his wife is dead. The dead woman's brother doesn't believe Richard's story and he hires Scudder to prove Thurman murdered his sister. Scudder's investigation takes us on a journey through New York's "snuff" film, sex-for-sale underworld. Lawrence Block learned his craft writing for the pulp magazines, and you sure can tell. Who else can make a reformed alcoholic, and wife deserter into a likable character?