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After the First Death (Mystery) by Lawrence…

After the First Death (Mystery)

by Lawrence Block

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"After The First Death" is a 1969 novel by Lawrence Block. The basis of the plot is nothing new to crime fiction. This is yet another man-on- the-run story about an ordinary, law-abiding guy, who was originally a well-respected professor, who wakes up after an all-night bender in a sleazy hotel room, covered with blood with a dead prostitute on the floor. You say that could happen to anyone. Well, the twist here is that it is not the first time that this has happened to Alex Penn. The first time he spent some years in prison paying for the crime, half- convinced he really did it. No one, almost no one, believes in his innocence the second time around. Would you believe him after he had already been convicted and sentenced for murdering one prostitute?

The bulk of the book is about how this ordinary guy who isn't really a criminal-type escapes the encircling arm of the law and sets about to decipher the tiny bits of clues that could lead him to the real murderer. On the way, it is almost comic the way he sets out in desperation to figure it out, interviewing his ex-wife, her sister, and his best friend to determine who framed him. It gets really comic later when he decides to return to Times Square and interview the street girls who knew Robin, the corpse in the latest hotel room. Of course, with his photograph plastered all over the front pages, he must don a disguise: an army major on weekend leave in full dress uniform walking around late sixties Times Square trying to interview prostitutes without attracting too much attention.

It is a well-written and compelling read that aptly captures Alex's growing desperation and self-doubt as he poses the ridiculous question of who possibly could have framed not once, but twice, in exactly the same manner. It just misses being a great book, however. There is something missing from the book in terms of richness and depth, kind of like a sundae without the whipped cream and cherry on top. Nevertheless, it is a worthwhile read, particularly for those with an interest in crime fiction. ( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
Another reissue of a Block classic that was originally published in 1969. A man wakes in a hotel room only to discover he is covered in blood and there is a dead girl he has apparently murdered while in an alcoholic haze. He had done this before, and had, in fact, just been released from prison for the murder of another prostitute. He was sure of his innocence the first time; now he’s not sure of what he might have done. Could he have done it again?

A lot of Block’s later themes are beginning to show in this book which has the elements of sixties romanticism: the hooker with the heart of gold; redemption, and the Hollywood ending with a slight twist. But it’s a good story even though lacking some of the subtleties of Black’s later work. Very pleasant airplane read. ( )
  ecw0647 | Apr 18, 2017 |
I've long been a fan of Lawrence Block's writing. He is astoundingly prolific, and remarkably versatile. Three of his series are among my favorites, and they are very different in tone: The [Matthew Scudder] series about an alcoholic ex-cop turned private eye is dark and gritty; the [Bernie Rhodenbarr] series about a bookseller/burglar is lighthearted and comical; and the [Hit Man] series about neurotic hired killer Keller is somewhere in between. You'd think writing three successful series (actually, he has two other series that I have not yet tackled) would be enough for any one man, but Block also wrote a plethora of standalone noir crime novels when he was starting out in the 1950s and 1960s. He's begun re-issuing these in e-editions under the umbrella title of Classic Crime Library and that's where I picked up this one.

Alex Penn is serving a life sentence for murdering a prostitute when he is released on a technicality. He's lost everything from his previous life — his wife, his job as a history professor, his purpose. So it's not surprising that he goes on a drunken bender, but when he wakes up in a seedy hotel room with a dead prostitute lying on the floor even he can hardly believe it. He has no memory of killing her but he's sure he must have, based on his history and the similarity to his original crime. It isn't until after he's fled the scene and is trying to figure out what to do next that he remembers snippets of the night and realizes that there was someone else in the room. He's been framed — but by who? Who hated him enough to frame him the first time to get sent to prison, and then do it again when he's released? He doesn't know, but he knows his only chance of staying out of prison is to find out.

Block is one of those writers who makes it look so easy. His style is breezy and effortless. There are few if any soaring flights of poetic language, but there is a conversational tone and compulsive readability to his work that reminds in some ways of Stephen King (though without all the supernatural hoo-ha). Unlike King, there's nary an unnecessary word or sidebar to bloat the book into an exercise in reader frustration. Block is lean, mean, and clean.

This early example of crime noir isn't Block's best work, but it's nothing for him to be ashamed of, either. If you like crime fiction of that era, I suspect you'll like this one quite a bit. ( )
  rosalita | Jul 30, 2016 |
Couldn't get into this book and fairly quickly abandoned it. ( )
  edwardsgt | Feb 24, 2013 |
Like his books because they are set in a slightly different time and remain interesting
  shazjhb | Oct 16, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743445074, Mass Market Paperback)

It was all too frighteningly familiar. For the second time in his life, Alex Penn wakes up in an alcoholic daze in a cheap hotel room off Times Square and finds himself lying next to the savagely mutilated body of a young woman. After the first death, he was convicted of murder and imprisoned, then released on a technicality. But this time he has to find out what happened during the blackout and why-before the police do.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:58 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Lawrence Block weaves his spell in this suspenseful tale of a man haunted by murders he hopes he hasn't committed . . . It was all too frighteningly familiar. For the second time in his life, Alex Penn wakes up in an alcoholic daze in a cheap hotel room off Times Square and finds himself lying next to the savagely mutilated body of a young woman. After the first death, he was convicted of murder and imprisoned, then released on a technicality. But this time he has to find out what happened during the blackout and why, before the police do.… (more)

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