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A Dance at the Slaughterhouse (1991)

by Lawrence Block

Series: Matthew Scudder (9)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6391528,368 (4.02)10
There is no accolade or major mystery award that has not already been bestowed upon Lawrence Block. His acclaimed crime novels are as intelligent, provocative, and emotionally complex as they are nerve-tighteningly intense. And perhaps the most respected of his myriad works are the Matthew Scudder books-masterworks of suspenseful invention featuring a remarkable protagonist rich in conscience and character, with all the flaws that his humanity entails. This is the detective novel as high art.In Matt Scudder's mind, money, power, and position elevate nobody above morality or the law. Now the ex-cop and unlicensed PI has been hired to prove that socialite Richard Thurman orchestrated the brutal murder of his beautiful, pregnant wife. During Scudder's hard-drinking years, he left a piece of his soul on every seedy corner of the Big Apple. But this case is more depraved and more potentially devastating than anything he experienced while floundering in the urban depths. Because this investigation is leading Scudder on a frightening grand tour of New York's sex-for-sale underworld-where an innocent young life is simply a commodity to be bought and perverted ... and then destroyed.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Matt Scudder allies with gangster friend to eliminate otherwise unreachable murderous couple
  ritaer | Jan 16, 2021 |
I was up until 2am reading this, frustrated with my sleepiness. I started reading again with my coffee this morning. I just couldn't stop.

The central plot seems a bit silly now because we know that there were no murderous satanic cults sacrificing babies at Day Care Centers, the chick from Cannibal Holocaust is still alive and well, Guinea Pig was done with special effects, etc. It all became sickeningly real with the advent of the Internet and easy/cheap digital recording, but in the late '80s it was nothing but an urban legend.

But, child exploitation and pornography was a nasty little problem then (and now), Block got that exactly right and it was enough to hold the central premise of the book.

I usually dislike it when authors throw two plots together and try to make them stick. Most authors do this poorly and it just seems lazy. Block did it brilliantly by keeping the focus of Scudder's investigation within a small part of the city and within the same profession. That made it believable. Working in NYC is the same as working anywhere else - Everybody knows, or has heard of, everyone else. Names, faces and resumes float around in a limited area and people's names live on the edge of your memory and the tip of your tongue. (This was even true when I was in social work in NYC.)

The same is true for people who live in your neighborhood, especially if you see them every day.

So, I was really impressed with the way that Block pulled this book together.

I am absolutely loving this series. I just can't stop reading. ( )
  authenticjoy | Mar 29, 2019 |
The crimes in this mystery are pretty intense, and Scudder's reactions to them equally so. I don't think this is Block's strongest Scudder story, because it relies on fairly improbable coincidences, but it is different from most of the series, and I liked seeing Scudder's character stretched. ( )
  breic | Jan 3, 2019 |
A Dance At The Slaughterhouse" is the ninth novel in Block's Matthew Scudder series. It is a finely tuned piece of work and, in it, Scudder meets people so twisted and so evil even he is shocked. You would think that there was nothing left to surprise this battle-hardened man, but there are things people do to each other for amusement and power games that is just truly evil. And, often, the most evil ones are the most charming and the most seductive.

At this point in the series, Scudder has given up drinking, but not given up hanging in bars. In particular, he hangs out with the giant butcher Mick Ballou, shoots the breeze with him, and attends mass with him in the early morning hours. Scudder has a steady lady friend now and attends meetings all the time.

The opening scene with the boxing match works tremendously well and captures the atmosphere of the match and the way you look around the audience.

There are parts of this book that are quite graphic and will make some readers very uncomfortable, but there's a point to it and it's that Scudder is uncomfortable too. ( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
Matt Scudder is hired by the brother of a recently murdered woman. He's given the unfortunate task of investigating the husband who is believed by most to have had a hand in her demise. Shortly after taking the job, Matt finds himself drawn back into something that had impacted his life just a few months earlier.

Coming off the heels of the 8th Scudder novel in which Matt encounters his most dangerous adversary, Block created an impressive follow up. Block gives Scudder plenty to do here, hitting him with two mysteries.

The surrounding cast within Scudder's universe both expands and develops nicely. In fact, there's quite a bit of development. His relationship with Elaine becomes a little more defined and you do get that sense that something is going to have to change. His friendship with Durkin becomes a little complicated at points and Mick Ballou is just as awesome as ever.

I will sneak this in here - I've read a lot of Chuck Palahniuk so I've got a taste for over-the-top, disgusting events taking place. Some of the stuff that Block throws in here is pretty uncharacteristic for the series up to this point. While it didn't disturb me nor offend me, it was certainly unexpected.

In typical Block fashion (basing this on the 8 other books I've read), the ending is pretty quick. The final pages are filled with action and suspense which wrap up the book excellently. In fact, something rather significant occurs prompting Scudder to act in a way you probably couldn't predict.

I'm going to say 4.5. I really loved this book, I just can't put it on the same level as its predecessor. ( )
  branimal | Apr 1, 2014 |
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Epigraph
If God should punish men according
to what they deserve, He would not leave
so much as a beast on the back of the earth.
THE KORAN
Dedication
For Philip Friedman
First words
Midway into the fifth round the kid in the blue trunks rocked his opponent with a solid left to the jaw.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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There is no accolade or major mystery award that has not already been bestowed upon Lawrence Block. His acclaimed crime novels are as intelligent, provocative, and emotionally complex as they are nerve-tighteningly intense. And perhaps the most respected of his myriad works are the Matthew Scudder books-masterworks of suspenseful invention featuring a remarkable protagonist rich in conscience and character, with all the flaws that his humanity entails. This is the detective novel as high art.In Matt Scudder's mind, money, power, and position elevate nobody above morality or the law. Now the ex-cop and unlicensed PI has been hired to prove that socialite Richard Thurman orchestrated the brutal murder of his beautiful, pregnant wife. During Scudder's hard-drinking years, he left a piece of his soul on every seedy corner of the Big Apple. But this case is more depraved and more potentially devastating than anything he experienced while floundering in the urban depths. Because this investigation is leading Scudder on a frightening grand tour of New York's sex-for-sale underworld-where an innocent young life is simply a commodity to be bought and perverted ... and then destroyed.

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The police can't prove that socialite Richard Thruman arranged the rape, torture and murder of his beautiful, pregnant wife. The dead woman''s brother thinks Matthew Scudder can. During his ongoing battle with the bottle, ex-cop, ex-boozer Scudder left a little bit of his soul on every seedy corner of the Big Apple. 
But this case will drag the tormented p.i. deeper into the mire than he's eve been before - launching him on a lethal and terrifying tour of New York's "snuff" film, sex-for-sale underworld... where an innocent young life is commodity to be bought, perverted and ultimately destroyed.
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