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When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (Matthew Scudder #6)

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  4,060 Ratings  ·  215 Reviews
In the dark days, in a sad and lonely place, ex-cop Matt Scudder is drinking his life away -- and doing "favors" for pay for his ginmill cronies. But when three such assignments flow together in dangerous and disturbing ways, he'll need to change his priorities from boozing to surviving.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published December 31st 1997 by Avon (first published 1986)
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Bill  Kerwin
May 21, 2007 Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fine entry in the Matt Scudder series, but fans of conventional mystery novels may be somewhat disappointed, for it involves not one particular case, but three: the armed robbery of an after-hours joint, the extortion of a tavern for the return of its cooked books, and the murder of the wife of a patron of one of Matt's usual haunts. Scudder does eventually connect two cases and solve them, and he sort of solves the other case too, but there is a lot of conversation not germane to the ...more
Feb 20, 2013 Greg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A few years ago it became somewhat fashionable for like a month or two to talk about how Stephen King deserved to win literary awards. Because I'm lazy I'm not going to look it up, but I think he was even given some kind of lifetime achievement award from the folks who provide us with the National Book Award. It was around the same time that McSweeney's and Michael Chabon were flaunting their genre fiction cred and releasing the pretty much unreadble anthology of adventure stories.

It's been lon
I wish you could add sound effects to books because it would have been cool if the flashback noise from Lost would have played when I started reading this.

According to Lawrence Block lore, he originally planned to end the Scudder series with the last book, Eight Million Ways to Die, and it certainly would have made a good stopping point. But Block owed a Scudder story so he wrote a short version of this that he liked it so much he expanded it to a book. Then he liked the book so much he decided
Aug 18, 2012 Carol. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh Scudder novels, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1) Period New York. This time it's a walk down memory lane to 1975. While Scudder remembers more about the sports scene than national politics, he also recalls that it was a big year for Black Russians and tequila sunrises. It's also a time of Irish dominance in Hell's Kitchen (anecdotal origin quote: "Hell's a mild climate. This is Hell's Kitchen"), a small rough, industrial down-and-out section of New York. Irish toughs with connecti

First of all, Carol knows what she's talking about. This is another great installment in the Scudder series and I really wavered over whether to give it five stars or not. It's a flashback novel, back to Scudder's hard drinking, bar crawling days of wee morning hours and head splitting hangovers. This is Scudder in all his glorious dysfunction, surrounded by the other barflies that make up his small cadre of "friends". It's 1970's New York, where Irish bars have Republican Army connections.

James Thane
Mar 23, 2010 James Thane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
This is among the best of Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder series, which is saying quite a lot. Set in the mid-1970s, it finds Scudder divorced, working as an unlicensed P.I. in New York City and essentially living in the bars that dot the neighborhood around his small hotel room.

The book opens with the brazen robbery of an after-hours saloon that happens to be owned by some scary Irish brothers that no smart person would ever think to screw around with. Matt is present at the time of the robber
Apr 02, 2014 Mara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Skip Devoe and Tommy Tillary. Theirs are the faces I see when I think of the summer of '75. Between them, they were the season. Were they friends of mine? They were, but with a qualification. They were saloon friends. I rarely saw them- or anyone else, in those days- other than in a room where strangers gathered to drink liquor.

I don't know why I underestimate Lawrence Block. After the joyride that was reading Eight Million Ways to Die, I thought that surely Matthew Scudder's next adventure
Dan Schwent
An after hours bar is robbed by two masked men. A bar buddy's wife is murdered and he's the prime suspect. The clean set of books from another friend's bar is stolen. What, if anything, do Matthew Scudder's three cases have to do with one another?

After Eight Million Ways to Die, I wasn't that impressed with this one in the first few chapters but it really picked up. It takes place while Scudder is still drinking, back in 1975. Once again, Block had me guessing right up until the end. It never ce
Mar 10, 2016 Lynn rated it it was amazing
Matthew Scudder is working to help friends with problems involving blackmail, robbery and murder. The events in this story took place back when Scudder was a heavy drinker. It seems pretty grim to spend all day maintaining an alcohol numb, but he and his friends do just that. Scudder gave up being a policeman, but figuring out whodunnit was the only bright spot for him in this whole book. Block writes these books from Scudder's point-of-view. He is a very sad guy with no I cried ...more
Dec 12, 2012 Tfitoby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
Whilst reading about Jack Taylor fighting the good fight to stay on the wagon in Ken Bruen's Priest recently I figured it was probably inspired by Lawrence Block and Matt Scudder; the last time we met Matt was ready to turn his life around one meeting at a time, so in I jumped to this sixth in the series of books about alcoholic former cop turned professional favours for friends provider Matt Scudder.

Turns out this wasn't the moment I was looking for, When The Sacred Ginmill throws everything yo
Jul 09, 2017 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime

Scudder oozes class. Yeah he might like to overindulge in a drink or ten and some of his actions may be morally corrupt to the untrained eye but he's one smooth customer. This tale is a flashback of sorts looking back at a time before Scudder tried to give up the booze and was hanging around in many a watering hole.

Scudder gets caught up in a robbery and is asked to investigate so off he goes. He detects and even with the hindrance of booze he detects with class. Nothing fancy other than wo
Sep 11, 2011 Brandon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm very happy for this novel's existence. Apparently, Block had originally planned on ending Scudder's adventures after finishing up Eight Million Ways to Die. However, after writing what was originally intended to be a short story, Block expanded it to what we now know as When the Sacred Ginmill Closes.

Taking place sometime between novels 1 and 5; Scudder is still heavily boozing it up. If I didn't know that this was a "flashback" novel, I would have been completely shocked that Scudder fell o
Cathy DuPont
Oct 02, 2013 Cathy DuPont rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

 photo aaa909a6-4eb1-4aba-87ed-c9905771161f_zpse09d2fa8.jpg
Lawrence Block circa 1986


Scudder is not a social drinker but a confirmed alcoholic. In Eight Million Ways to Die, the novel published previous to When the Sacred Ginmill Closes he's attending AA after being told numerous times in the hospital that if he doesn't quit he will die. So what does a normal person do, he/she quits. Which is what Scudder did although he did have a few relapses along the way.

In this book, published in 1986, Scudder is drinking b
This is the latest installment in my journey into Lawrence Block's stunning Matthew Scudder crime series. This one comes on the heels of the showstopping Eight Million Ways to Die, and I was wondering if it was possible for this book to be as good. I was pleased to see that it comes pretty damn close! Block keeps it fresh by showing us a different side of Scudder, flashing back to events from Matt's past that occurred even before the first novel. Here, Matt tells the story of when he and his har ...more
Benoit Lelièvre
Nov 06, 2015 Benoit Lelièvre rated it it was amazing
This is such an odd volume in the Matthew Scudder series, yet it is why it's so great. WHEN THE SACRED GINMILL CLOSES happens before the events of the first Scudder book (at least to my understanding), so Matt is not only giving in to his alcoholism, but he hadn't started living in monastic retreat on the world, yet. Scudder is hanging with the wrong crowd and has no innocent soul to save this time.

Not only this novel is so different, it's also pretty amibtious as it's not featuring one investig
Nov 15, 2010 Mohammed rated it really liked it
In the end i liked how different this book was from the 5th book that is so highly rated,award winning. I liked the flasback story mostly because of the gang of friends that hanged around with Matt in 1975. I liked Skip and co, the first Scudder book that hade lines that made me laugh. They tend to be more bleak,complex character study.

I liked how beliavable Block ended the different cases, how Matt worked without being some super detective. I liked the different things that the title was a symb
Aug 07, 2009 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sweet Matt Scudder read. Hang with his drift through the gin joints, empty churches, and old hotels. Just listen to his steady, sometimes unclear voice as he goes through his two cases. Then wait for the big payoff at the end, where he wraps it all up. It's worth the wait, too.
Richard White
Dec 05, 2013 Richard White rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
Damn I love this series. This entry was excellent.
Jun 04, 2017 Nate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More solid gold from Block here. Dude really seems to just get noticeably better and better with every book, which is saying something because even the first Scudder novel was remarkable stuff. It’s really something when you get ahold of a work like Eight Million Ways to Die which seems to be as good as things get and powerfully weighted with its own sense of accomplishment and finality, then a followup comes along and is just as good or even arguably better. The Godfather Part II is a good exam ...more
Dennis D.
Sep 15, 2011 Dennis D. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had been on a self-imposed exile from Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder novels for some time, for reasons I can’t recall. After reading the first five books in the series, culminating with the excellent Eight Million Ways To Die, I decided to give both Block and Sue Grafton a break, turning to John D. MacDonald and Jonathan Kellerman for my mystery/thriller fix, while also checking out Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr mysteries.

Boy, I had forgotten what I was missing. The character’s back-story is tha
Maggie K
Aug 25, 2013 Maggie K rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have always enjoyed the Matthew Scudder books, but this one is my new favorite!

Flashback-style we go back to the story of some cases Scudder worked in the '70's. I am pretty impressed of how well a flashback fit into the rest of the series. We see a little different, seedier New York, along with a little different, seedier Scudder. This was shortly after the 'incident' in where Scudder quit the force and went off the grid, and the wounds are more striking.

After witnessing a holdup at an after-
Sep 04, 2014 Darren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Darren by: Peter Straub
Shelves: sleuthing
This one gets all the credit, but having read it hard after Eight Million Ways to Die, I feel that one is just a much better book. Formally, Ginmill has a lot going for it; back-and-forth-in-time narration, one of the best parlour scenes in the genre, three mysteries on the go all at once (Scudder has taken Detective Durkin's advice from Eight Million to heart)... It's a great book, and I liked it, but I loved Eight Million Ways to Die.

Not really a fair review on my part. Not even a review reall
Mar 01, 2013 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wasn't sure that I was going to like this Scudder book as much as the others to start with as it started off a bit slowly. However, it got better the further I read and had a really clever ending so was right up there with the best. What a great series this is ! On to the next one...
Oct 11, 2015 Piker7977 rated it it was amazing

When the Sacred Ginmill Closes is Lawrence Block firing on all cylinders. The narrative is told in retrospect by Scudder and the events of the story take place during his drinking days. And brother....does he drink!

This entry in the Scudder series has many strengths. The story begins as three separate mysteries and culminates into one hell of an ending. Characters such as a group of drinking buddies, bar owners, and neighborhood ladies add to the captivating qualities of the story and si
Perry Whitford
Sep 28, 2011 Perry Whitford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sober Scudder thinks back ten years to the drunken Scudder of 1975, who carelessly became entangled into the criminal affairs of his clients and drinking partners, with morally skewered consequences.

This is often cited as one of the best of the series. I am yet to read them all, so I can't be certain of that, but it's certainly very good.

The characters all have strong individual voices and motivations, the plot threads intertwine well but not to an overly neat and unrealistic degree, and the
Feb 04, 2014 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yup yup...another super Scudder book. Once started, I CAN NOT PUT DOWN!!!

Lawrence Block has a good formula going, writing these books. He’s also a master at shocking me. Even though Scudder is a wonderfully developed character in this 6th book in the series, he’s also continuously doing things to keep me on my toes.

“And so we've had another night

Of poetry and poses

And each man knows he'll be alone

When the sacred ginmill closes.

And so we'll drink the final glass

Each to his joy and sorrow

And hope
Nov 09, 2013 Bobbi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-detective
It's funny how Scudder always says he does favors for friends, but this is the first one where the people he's working for are actually his friends. But that doesn't make the body count any lower, or make him drink any slower, no fears.

It's been a while for me between this one and the last one, so I can't really say whether I like it more or less than the others I've read, but I really enjoyed it. I don't know what's so satisfying about each book in this series, but each one is wholly original,
Dec 22, 2011 Ensiform rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
A flashback in the Scudder series. The now-sober unlicensed PI looks ten years into his past to a time when he drank heavily and grappled with three cases at once: the murder of an acquaintance’s friend, a robbery at a bar owned by Irish mobsters, and the blackmail of a friend of who runs another bar. They come to a close in a way that is typically chilling for this series: rough justice indeed, if justice at all. It’s not so much a whodunit or a procedural as a portrait of a man and an entire c ...more
Linda Robinson
Jun 25, 2010 Linda Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I like Lawrence Block even more. Checked out this Matthew Scudder detective story because of the title and it's as comfortable as a good sofa or a decent pair of shoes or a sitdown with an old friend. Add Matthew Scudder and his city to Bernie Rhodenbarr and his neighborhood as darn good reading. Here's what I liked most: I didn't spend any brain power trying to figure out who done it; I trusted Scudder to find out. That's good writing.
Sep 07, 2010 Miriam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-crack
Oh, Matthew Scudder novels when Scudder is drunk all the time are oh-so-fun. Check this one out if you need a fix of a great private detective novel.
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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)
  • Eight Million Ways to Die (Matthew Scudder, #5)
  • 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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“Is that what I am? I don’t know what the hell I am anymore."
"Oh, bullshit. You’re a guy, a human being. Just another poor son of a bitch who doesn’t want to be alone when the sacred ginmill closes.”
“So many changes, eating away at the world like water dripping on a rock.” 3 likes
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