Eight Million Ways To Die

Eight Million Ways To Die - Lawrence Block That's it. If I never read another Lawrence Block novel (I shudder at the thought), this book on it's own solidifies in my mind that Block is one of the best crime novelists out there. But this is so much more than just a "detective novel." It's a vividly written character study of the struggle to overcome alcoholism.

In this, the fifth book in the famed Matthew Scudder series, Matt gets hired by a beautiful hooker to convince her pimp to let her get out of the life. It eventually turns into a murder investigation. But the mystery is almost completely secondary. Since the start of the series, Matt has had a steady downward arc in regards to his drinking. In the beginning he was comfortably in denial, confident in his control. But it's gotten worse with each book. And now, even though he tries to attend AA meetings, he has hit bottom. Terrified at what he's failed to see in himself and determined to stay sober, he ends up throwing his all into searching for a killer, dedicating himself to the case more than ever before. Not necessarily to do the right thing, but because it gives him something to take his mind off of his liquor jones. You get the sense that the case is the only thing that saving him from falling off the wagon again.

The personal struggle is what puts this high above the previous Scudder books (which were all good). There's just more at stake for Matthew. Block's great writing really shines when describing Matt's struggle: detailing the denial of his lack of control, the bargaining that he goes through with himself about why he should take a sip, his feelings about the AA meetings, and his realization of how serious the problem has actually become. Matt sees liquor everywhere; temptation follows him around every corner of the investigation.

And Matt isn't the only well-drawn character. I really enjoyed reading about Jan, Matt's love interest and the person who (in the previous novel) opened his eyes to his alcoholism and the solutions, as well as Chance, the level-headed pimp that totally bucks the stereotype. I enjoyed so much of this book and it's the best installment so far in a series that will hopefully only get better.