A Drop of the Hard Stuff, Lawrence Block s latest addition to the Matt Scudder story, is in every way classic Block and classic Scudder. Like When The Sacred Gin Mill Closes, A Drop of the Hard Stuff is a flash back novel told years after the fact by Scudder as he and Mick Ballou stay up too late talking and telling stories. It helps a little bit if you are a Matt Scudder fan then you would have a real feel for how far back Mick Ballou and Matt Scudder go back and how much they have been through both but it is not a necessity to enjoying this novel.
Stephen King has called Lawrence Block the successor to John D. Macdonald which is a huge compliment and King is not the only person who feels that way. Block s gift for story telling and keeping the audience faithful is two fold. Block writes simply with a real feel for the NYC setting that is both frank and loving. A Drop of the Hard Stuff is tied tightly to the AA 12 step program and is reminiscent of Out on the Cutting Edge (the apparent suicide of AA member Eddie Dunphy) but is a much stronger novel as it pursues the almost invisible threads of a murder investigation which the police have already admitted has gone cold.
In A Drop of the Hard Stuff a one time felon who has found a new way of life via the religious drinking cessation program AA turn up dead. There are no leads. Despite the obvious lack of leads Scudder is entreated to take on the case. In typical P.I. fashion the patient and steadfast Scudder picks, digs and an investigation starts to look like a possibility. A mystery novel would not be complete without a secondary story and here in spades is the story of Matthew and Jan and how their lives were affected by drinking, sobriety and anniversaries.
One of the difficulties when reading any Matt Scudder novel is the tendency to compare it to When the Sacred Ginmill Closes which is unfair. A Drop of the Hard Stuff is a solid and well written mystery novel with a good ending and in every way a solid addition to the Matthew Scudder series.
Other Lawrence Block Reviews
Grifter's Game: Hard Case Crime is a new imprint for fans of the mystery novel.
Hit and Run - A Keller Mystery: Decent yarn if you are willing to suspend disbelief
All The Flowers Are Dying - A Matthew Scudder Mystery: An innocent man is put to death but one psychologist believes in the mans innocence. Meanwhile back in Manhattan Matt Scudder is investigating a new and mysterious boyfriend for a friend of his in the program. That these two paths intersect is only the beginning of another fine addition to the Scudder legend.
Hit Me - A Keller Thriller: Fifth in the Keller series and a good, comfortable read