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In the Midst of Death (Matthew Scudder) by…

In the Midst of Death (Matthew Scudder) (original 1976; edition 2002)

by Lawrence Block (Author)

Series: Matthew Scudder (3)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4501339,176 (3.72)9
Lawrence Block is a four-time winner of the Edgar Award and was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. He has also won four Shamus Awards, and was the first recipient of the Nero Wolfe Award. He is the author of over 40 books, many of which feature the characters Bernie Rhodenbarr, Matthew Scudder, Chip Harrison, and Evan Tanner. He lives in New York City with his wife Lynne.… (more)
Title:In the Midst of Death (Matthew Scudder)
Authors:Lawrence Block (Author)
Info:Avon (2002), Edition: Reprint, 272 pages
Collections:Your library

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In the Midst of Death by Lawrence Block (1976)



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If, like I did, you started reading the Matthew Scudder series with some of the later books in the series where Scudder runs from AA meeting to AA meeting, it comes as a shock to delve into the early books in the series where he is actually rolling from bar to bar and often barely remembers his conversations from the previous night. Obviously, the bar-hopping life has to precede the AA meetings, but it gives the story a decidedly different feel.

You can pick up the Scudder novels in just about any order and be intrigued. For the most part, they are each independent books. Each one is a terrific detective novel. If you think these novels are going to be about a hardboiled detective with a fedora and a sexy secretary taking dictation, you will be quite surprised. Although derived from the hardboiled tradition, the Scudder books are different. Scudder is an old-fashioned detective who puts together little bits and pieces and figures things out by dogged work.

Scudder, if you did not know, is a former police officer. One night, off duty in a bar (where else would he be), he sees two guys hold up the joint and take out the bartender. Pursuing them outside, Scudder took them out, but a stray bullet from his gun ricocheted into the skull of a seven-year-old girl, ending her life. The shooting was found justified, but Scudder lost the desire for police work, the desire for his married life, and holed up in Hell’s Kitchen, doing favors for people in return for a few bucks. It is a dark period of his life and he literally tries to drown his troubles in booze.

“In The Midst Of Death” is a terrific detective story and certainly deserves five stars. An officer (Jerry Broadfield) has had it with graft and crooked double-dealings and has talked to a special prosecutor. No one on the NYPD has any love for him anymore and someone put a call girl up to alleging that Broadfield has been demanding weekly payments from her. Suddenly, the special prosecutor wants nothing to do with Broadfield and neither does anyone else. Scudder doesn’t like the guy, doesn’t like the fact he can’t tell when the guy is lying or not. He talks to the call girl, who is mesmerizing to him. When the call girl ends up slashed apart in Broadfield’s apartment, the whole world is ready to parade him up to the Attica and Scudder is about all Broadfield’s got. Scudder doesn’t think the crime makes any sense. Broadfield is way too smart to leave a dead body in his apartment. Scudder pokes around here and there, trying to figure out the connections, trying to figure out what went on.

The novel is perfectly paced and I, at least, found that it was hard to put down. It has a dark, hard feel to it, but it is not another remake of the classic hardboiled fedora-wearing detective. This is a novel with depth and substance to it and you can see how Block’s writing has matured.
Five stars for this one. ( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |

I think this is the weakest so far of the 3 Matthew Scudder books I've read. The case wasn't all that compelling although Matthew continues to grow as a character, and a very interesting one at that. ( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
First line:
~ October is about as good as the city gets~

This, the third book in the Matt Scudder series, moves us along in getting to know Scudder, a skilled, private investigator. If you have read my reviews of Book 1 and Book 2 The Sins of the Fathers and Time to Murder and Create you will know that I am more interested in the development of Scudder than in the actual mystery that he solves. Having said that, I always find Block’s stories keep my attention to the end.

In this book, Scudder investigates on behalf of a policeman who has been framed for a murder he did not commit.

And as he investigates we get more insight into Scudder and how he lives his life, on the edges of skid row. His struggles with alcoholism continue. His denial has been solid. A new friend who is an alcoholic suggests he might be one also and at one point Scudder finds himself outside a meeting. However, he leaves without going in. We can see that he is beginning to question whether or not he can ‘take it or leave it’ as he often maintains.

I am on to the next one as soon as I can get it from the library.

3.5 stars ( )
  ccookie | May 2, 2014 |
As many have noted in reviews posted here, Block begins to really establish Scudder as a person rather than as an unlicensed detective. We get to see him grow in ways that we've yet to dive into. Between his shaky relationship with his ex-wife and kids, to his struggle with intimacy, to his budding alcohol addiction.

I feel a little crazy giving all these 5 star ratings to Block's books but they're really that good. They're tightly structure; they don't run on for the sake of running on. We're given what we need to know about a suspect, not what they had for breakfast 3 years ago on a Tuesday - I guess what I'm saying is the man knows how to edit a book.

I don't exactly know where to go from here. Supposedly, the series continues to get better and better. Damn you Goodreads for not establishing a rating system higher than 5 stars! ( )
  branimal | Apr 1, 2014 |
ereader ebook
  romsfuulynn | Apr 28, 2013 |
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for an absent friend
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October is about as good as the city gets.
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Average: (3.72)
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2 8
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