I haven’t cracked the spine of one of Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder novels since reading A Drop Of The Hard Stuff last May. Recently the 2005 release All The Flowers Are Dying found its way into my grasp and it had me hooked from the first page. Block is one of those journeymen mystery writers who has been publishing quite literally since he penned his first book which was accepted for publication on its first submission. All The Flowers Are Dying is classic Block even if it isn’t quite classic Scudder.
If you are a Scudder fan don’t let the idea that this isn’t quite classic Scudder steer you away from picking up this title. By saying not classic Scudder the point is that this is not the Scudder of Eight Million Ways To Die or When The Sacred Gin Mill Closes. It is instead an older Scudder, a Scudder who is now somewhere in his mid sixties. He is slower moving, his memory isn’t what it used to be, he is comfortably married and long, long sober. He has aged, matured, become more refined as have all of his associates. This is what a reader can expect from Lawrence Block: realism in a mystery story. It is the kind of realism that requires no suspension of disbelief. Scudder has aged along with his fans.
At the beginning All The Flowers Are Dying ties together two disparate and well crafted story lines. A psychologist meets with a man scheduled for execution in Virginia, a woman in Manhattan wants her mysterious new boyfriend investigated and as ever Matt Scudder finds himself in the midst of it all. All The Flowers Are Dying is told from two distinctly different points of view. Naturally there is Matt Scudder’s view and then there is the point of view of the criminal mastermind who hunts humans. Block is a wonderful story teller and brings together these two viewpoints in a slow taut merger.
There are a few hiccups in All The Flowers Are Dying but the main one is that for all the savvy skill the killer demonstrates leading up to the last chapter of the novel the reader would have expected him to stay in character. One possible explanation for the devolution in character might be the inevitable dissolution of cohesive thought demonstrated by so many killers as they escalate their predatory activity but that is never made part of the story in any cogent manner. The other little stick in the mud, and once again it is at the end of the story, is a curious lapse in Scudder’s judgement. When you get to it you will know what I mean but it doesn’t ruin the story. All The Flowers Are Dying is definitely worth the read.
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
A Drop of the Hard Stuff - A Matthew Scudder Mystery: High Low Jack gets himself killed doing his 4th step, Matt Scudder investigates
Hit Me - A Keller Thriller: Fifth in the Keller series and a good, comfortable read