Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Book Review: Lawrence Block, A Stab in the Dark (1981)

Spoilers follow: I feel like a broken record, or maybe a corrupted MP3 file, waiting for the great series that I know is coming but is not quite here yet. In A Stab in the Dark, the fourth Matthew Scudder novel, Scudder takes on a cold case involving a young woman stabbed with an ice pick. Scudder forms a semi-ludicrous theory as to who and why, and when Scudder confronts the who with this theory, he obligingly confesses. Case closed. Along the way, Lawrence Block engages in one of his favorite narrative perversions: He repeatedly dangles a compelling narrative possibility before his readers—in this case, Scudder interviewing a jailed serial killer—and when the event finally occurs, the narrative skips over it. (For a jaw-dropping example of this phenomenon, see Killing Castro.) At the end of A Stab in the Dark, Scudder goes to the door of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, but he does not go inside. I have a guess as to the significance of the title of the sixth novel in this series (When the Sacred Ginmill Closes), but I don’t want to stick out my neck too far. Grade C+

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