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Eight Million Ways to Die (Matthew Scudder #5)

4.15  ·  Rating Details ·  4,983 Ratings  ·  266 Reviews
Nobody knows better than Matthew Scudder how far down a person can sink in this city. A young prostitute named Kim knew it also—and she wanted out. Maybe Kim didn't deserve the life fate had dealt her. She surely didn't deserve her death. The alcoholic ex-cop turned p.i. was supposed to protect her, but someone slashed her to ribbons on a crumbling New York City waterfront ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 1982)
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Bill  Kerwin
May 21, 2007 Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

In this fifth entry in the Scudder series, Matt is hired by high-class hooker Kim Danniken. She is determined to leave the life, and, fearing her pimp Chance may try to stop her, she figures she may need Scudder's help. Things seem to be going well at first, but then somebody ends up dead, and Scudder realizes he has a much more complicated job on his hands.

The plot is interesting, with a few twists and turns, some memorable characters (“Danny Boy” Bell, the black albino dwarf tipster; Chance th
Someday I’m going to get around to putting together my list of the greatest mystery/crime novels I’ve read. When I do, this one is going to be very near the top.

Matt Scudder is still working as an unlicensed private detective, and he is approached by an upscale prostitute named Kim. She wants to quit the business but is nervous about telling her pimp, Chance. Kim hires Matt to break the news to Chance and gauge his reaction to see if he’ll try to keep her working.

After Matt tracks Chance down,
James Thane
Every time I post a review of one of Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder novels, my strong temptation is always to begin by saying that this is one of my favorite books in the series. The problem is that I love every last one of them and so they're all my favorites, which I guess makes Eight Million Ways to Die one of my Most Favorites.

The story at the heart of the novel is fairly simple and straightforward. A beautiful young call girl named Kim Dakkinen wants to leave the business, but she's worri
Aug 05, 2012 Carol. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, male-lead
A book about the mystery of a dead hooker becomes a book about Matt Scudder taking one day at a time, trying to save himself from alcohol. The prose was dry and matter-of-fact; the words of a police report detailing his movements and contacts. And yet the way they were arranged, their anti-drama sensibility, packed an emotional punch. Definitely my favorite Scudder so far.

The synopsis: Scudder gets a visit from a beautiful dairy-maid hooker who wants his help leaving her john. A little unusual t
"You know what you got in this city, this fucked-up toilet of a naked fucking city? You know what you got? You got eight million ways to die." ~Eight Million Ways to Die
Matt Scudder, how much do I love thee? Let me count the eight million ways.

This is definitely my favorite of the Scudder books so far, for all the reasons captured in this review here. Eight Million Ways to Die is New York in all of its grimy splendor: murderous, amoral, seething and unsympathetic. Block creates an authentic p
Jan 31, 2013 Tfitoby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of the best of them.

The fifth Matt Scudder takes a further dark turn in to a city plagued by demons and lawlessness, taking a pessimistic cue from the classic movie/TV show The Naked City this is the story of a dead call girl, of 2000 murders per year, of a private investigator, of an alcoholic on a path of self-destruction. During his investigation Scudder comes in to contact with all kinds of filth and degenerates, he makes a
Dan Schwent
A hooker hires Matthew Scudder to tell her pimp she's leaving. Scudder delivers the message and everything is cool. Only the hooker ends up dead and the pimp hires Scudder to find out who killed her. Can Scudder find the killer before he ends up dead himself?

Sometimes, I really struggle with rating a book. This was not one of those times. Eight Million Ways To Die is easily the best Lawrence Block book I've read yet, head and shoulders about the others. The characters are more alive than in the
Mar 12, 2014 Mara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What starts out as Matthew Scudder, fresh off of a drinking bender that landed him in a hospital, helping a hooker "get out of the game" turns into layer upon layer of murder and mystery in a city where people keep killing each other and there are eight million ways to die.

This installment of Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder series takes things to the next level. Things are richer, deeper; the grime is grimier- it's just more in all the right ways. Since some cleverer people have come before me
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 m
Aug 29, 2011 Brandon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Just wow. I can easily say this is the first "great" Scudder book. I knew I made a mistake rating the first 4 novels at 5 stars each. It's not that they're bad books, they're just not in the same league as Eight Million Ways to Die.

In the 5th installment of the series, Block takes Scudder and the City of New York all the way down to rock bottom. Whether he's exposing the reader to gang violence and random murders or he's having Scudder drink himself half to death; not a lot of hope escapes
Nov 18, 2016 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, crime, audiobook

This book oozes style. Ooze rhymes with booze, one thing that heavily influences this story and is a driving force behind Scudder. Forget the main plot thread in here, its standard fare without much of a mystery or intrigue. The main thread is the constant struggle/battle Scudder has with his drinking which has been touched upon before in this series but is really at the forefront here.

There are some intriguing characters along the journey too, people from Scudder’s past who we know from
Maureen DeLuca
Feb 06, 2017 Maureen DeLuca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Number 5 and going strong- "an oldie but a goodie" 'nuf said!
Apr 09, 2010 Mohammed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another amazing novel by Block,i kept thinking wow this is something.It was very much about Scudder himself,his struggles with alcohol that made it so strong this time too. The case was even less important than the novel before. It was complex story emotionally,i could have read 340+ pages of Matt Scudder and his problems without the crime plot,the violence.

The personal struggles made it much more darker than any violence could have been. I didnt care about the fact the case,the crime plot wasn
Cathy DuPont
Aug 09, 2013 Cathy DuPont rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lawrence Block has quickly become one of my top favorite hard-boiled/noir writers. To date I've read 11 of his books including a couple as short stories.

As you may have noticed, I've already claimed to love the pimp, Chance, in this story. Can't help myself; the guy is a real cool dude, not your stereotypical pimp. He doesn't drive flashy cars, wear flashy clothes, hang out at pubs, taverns and the such. And, he's good to his girls. He is none of those things we generally think of when we think
Sep 27, 2011 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense
Back in the early 90s I read four of the Matthew Scudder novels. They were quite good, and just the type of dark noir I was into at the time.
Eventually I had enough and moved on to many other authors and Lawrence Block fell off my radar. Until I saw a great review by Stephen for Block's Grifter's Game from the Hard Case Crime collection.
I read that short story, was thoroughly impressed, and set my mind to
visiting Matt Scudder again after a 20 year break.

Eight Million Ways to Die was published be
Feb 23, 2016 Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is why I read detective fiction. It's not the mystery, crimes and action, but I do enjoy reading about that stuff. I love the description of the mind of detectives and their efforts, frustrations, success and failure. Matthew Scudder is especially wonderful to read about, maybe because he has so many problems and hides his sadness. In this book, a lot of people are sad. I am so glad I eavesdropped on their lives rather than live them. Why read about a life like your own? The weather wa ...more
Benoit Lelièvre
Mar 31, 2015 Benoit Lelièvre rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, that was dark. EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE is one of these novels that expose the limitations of a 5 stars rating system, since it really should be rated 4.5/5. I liked it a lot, but I liked A STAB IN THE DARK a tiny bit better. Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that I thought the plot was utterly brilliant (a common trait of the Scudder novels), but it was so far removed from the actual story that it felt like cheating a little bit. Usually, a mystery works as some kind of dare to t ...more
Mar 02, 2011 Nathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Woah, I thought after reading all the greats like Hammett and Chandler there were just re-hashes of their work in varying degrees of quality left. I was wrong. I am a huge fan of the P.I. genre and this might be the best work I've read. What gets me thimking is what else is out there that I havn't discovered yet and where has Matt Scudder been all my P.I. living life?
I wont go into a long description of the plot but let me just say that if you're the least bit interested in P.I. stories, this is
May 31, 2015 Meg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These books just keep getting better! Unlicensed PI Matt Scudder returns, fresh out of hospital after a bout of alcohol poisoning and on the case of a dead hooker. This book represents a change of heart for Matt - he finally acknowledges that his drinking is out of control and embarks on the 12 step program. I really like the character development as the series progresses - Scudder seemed a caricature of a hard boiled gumshoe in the first book but he becomes more human with each book. So happy t ...more
Aug 13, 2015 Nate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I honestly am SO close to giving this the fifth star...not entirely sure that I don’t want to at this point, but I still have a long way to go with the Scudder books so I don’t have a big enough sample group at this point. That said, this was a very powerful entry in this series, which has already been remarkably well-written with its own unique voice. As most readers of these books will agree, this is a mystery series where the actual mystery can often take a back seat to Block’s ever-developin ...more
May 14, 2017 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The reader can walk alongside Scudder, a former cop, now detective, through the mean streets of New York on a soul-bearing tour of his struggles with alcohol as he stubbornly follows every possible lead to solve a murder. This one feels like a primer on how to solve crime, and he is fortunate enough to have cooperation from the police - uncommon in this scenario.
We meet some very interesting whores, a unique pimp and the anonymous cloud of folk who need meetings. The murderer wields a machete an
Nov 28, 2014 Truman32 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eight Million Ways To Die, Lawrence Block’s seminal crime novel has been called the best entry in his Matthew Scudder series. And it lives up to the accolades.

Scudder is a train wreck—once a cop, he is now a drunk, living in a hotel and taking unlicensed private detective cases to get by. He only marginally supports his divorced wife and children, and after a two day bender has been told in no uncertain terms that any further drinking will kill him.
Into Matt’s life walks the prostitute, Kim. Sh
Laura Leaney
Jul 08, 2013 Laura Leaney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now this is great genre fiction. Gritty, realistic, and interesting. Eight Million Ways to Die is a police procedural without all the artsy furbelows of some of the recent crime writing; I'm thinking of Gillian Flynn and Benjamin Black (and I like their work, believe me). The crime is a fairly straightforward affair, yet still it must be solved, and the former NYPD detective Matthew Scudder is hired to do what the police have little time or interest for. Who cares about a dead prostitute in New ...more
Sep 25, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Of the Matthew Scudder novels I have read, this one is definitely the strongest.

In Eight Million Ways to Die, Block really delves into Scudder's alcoholism. It was an interesting sub-plot and I found myself awash in Scudder's character, moreso than any of the previous books. Block doesn't stretch himself thin with the mystery, instead, focusing on character a little deeper.

Not that the plot isn't great, but this change in style makes the book seem a little "fuller".

Block dials it back a bit in t
Feb 08, 2014 AC rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
OK. Had enough. Block ain't my cuppa tea... Was going to read Ginmill, but 4 failed reads in as many days is enuf for one writer.... A pity since he's writing about a time and place I was at...

Unlike others, I have no scruples rating books i couldn't finish, the one-star being pique for my disappointment and for the money I spent on these books. I also just unfollowed him on twitter..., such being my (admittedly) paltry revenge.

Carolyn (in SC) C234D
This was the second book in the Matt Scudder series that I read. Unfortunately, all I noted at the time was that it was very good.
Roo I MacLeod
Apr 27, 2017 Roo I MacLeod rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A prostitute employs Scudder to negotiate her release from her pimp. Nothing out of the ordinary, happens all the time eh? But when the prostitute wakes up dead with multiple slashes to her naked body, Scudder, and the police, are thinking revenge. So why does the pimp hire Scudder to find out what happened to his girl?
This is a good who dunnit, but the depth Block burrows into the alcoholic disease devouring Scudder is intense. Liking a drink a wee bit too much myself, I find these books a reve
Jun 08, 2013 Col rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, b
Nobody knows better than Matthew Scudder how far down a person can sink in this city. A young prostitute named Kim knew it also—and she wanted out. Maybe Kim didn't deserve the life fate had dealt her. She surely didn't deserve her death. The alcoholic ex-cop turned PI was supposed to protect her, but someone slashed her to ribbons on a crumbling New York City waterfront pier. Now finding Kim's killer will be Scudder's penance. But there are lethal secrets hiding in the slain
Dec 22, 2011 Ensiform rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
Scudder is hired by a whore to get her out of the life; the pimp, an agreeable man, acquiesces without argument. But when the whore turns up dead, the pimp hires Scudder to find out who did it. This is, so far, the best Scudder mystery by some distance.

As a character study, it builds on the bleak fatalism of the previous books. Here, the unlicensed alkie truly struggles with his drinking, going through blackouts and attending AA meetings. Block has a very good sense of what AA is all about. Scud
Feb 25, 2013 Bobbi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-detective
I'm going to have to think about this a little. The plot seems much more complex than the others so far in the series, but maybe that's because in retrospect each plot falls neatly into place. Whatever the difference, there is a clear difference, and I can see why people say this is the turning point in the series. How an author can affect such a subtle change in direction without altering the tone, tension, pace or personality, I don't know. It's hard to believe a series that used to describe b ...more
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Lawrence Block has been writing crime, mystery, and suspense fiction for more than half a century. He has published in excess (oh, wretched excess!) of 100 books, and no end of short stories.

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., LB attended Antioch College, but left before completing his studies; school authorities advised him that they felt he’d be happier elsewhere, and he thought this was remarkably perceptiv
More about Lawrence Block...

Other Books in the Series

Matthew Scudder (1 - 10 of 17 books)
  • The Sins of the Fathers (Matthew Scudder, #1)
  • Time to Murder and Create (Matthew Scudder, #2)
  • In the Midst of Death (Matthew Scudder, #3)
  • A Stab in the Dark (Matthew Scudder, #4)
  • When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (Matthew Scudder, #6)
  • Out on the Cutting Edge (Matthew Scudder, #7)
  • A Ticket to the Boneyard (Matthew Scudder, #8)
  • A Dance At The Slaughterhouse (Matthew Scudder, #9)
  • A Walk Among the Tombstones (Matthew Scudder, #10)
  • The Devil Knows You're Dead (Matthew Scudder, #11)

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“You know, it was a revelation to me to learn that I don't have to be comfortable. Nowhere is it written that I must be comfortable. I always thought if I felt nervous or anxious or unhappy I had to do something about it. But I learned that's not true. Bad feelings won't kill me. Alcohol will kill me, but my feelings won't.” 7 likes
“I thought, My name is Matt and I'm an alcoholic. A woman I know got killed last night. She hired me to keep her from getting killed and I wound up assuring her that she was safe and she believed me. And her killer conned me and I believed him, and she's dead now, and there's nothing I can do about it. And it eats at me and I don't know what to do about that, and there's a bar on every corner and a liquor store on every block, and drinking won't bring her back to life but neither will staying sober, and why the hell do I have to go through this? Why?” 6 likes
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