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A Stab In The Dark
Lawrence Block
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A Stab In The Dark (Matthew Scudder #4)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,794 Ratings  ·  131 Reviews

Louis Pinell, the recently apprehended "Icepick Prowler," freely admits to having slain seven young women nine years ago -- but be swears it was a copycat who killed Barbara Ettinger Matthew Scudder believes him. But the trail to Ettinger's true murderer is twisted, dark and dangerous...and even colder than the almost decade-old corpse the p.i. is determined to avenge.

Paperback, 197 pages
Published November 15th 1983 by Jove (first published 1981)
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Steve Bechard The paperback is 304 pages. I read a hardcover version of the book (not a red book, though) and it was somewhere around 176 pages long, so you're not…moreThe paperback is 304 pages. I read a hardcover version of the book (not a red book, though) and it was somewhere around 176 pages long, so you're not missing anything.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dan Schwent
Nine years ago, eight women were gruesomely slain with an icepick. The killer was finally apprehended and it turns out he was in an asylum at the time of the eighth murder. So who the hell killed Barbara Ettinger? That's what her father, Charles London, is paying Matthew Scudder to find out...

Lawrence Block does it again. In the fourth volume, Matthew Scudder struggles with his alcoholism and follows a trail nine years cold. Once again, Block did a good job tricking me into thinking I knew who t
James Thane
Matthew Scudder prowls the streets of New York City for the fourth time in A Stab in the Dark. By now the character has been firmly established: Matt is an ex-cop who left the force under tragic circumstances and who now works unofficially as a private detective. He doesn't have a license; he doesn't pay taxes, and he doesn't fill out paperwork. But sometimes he does a "favor" for a friend and the "friend" shows her or her gratitude by giving Matt money.

He also drinks. Heavily by this point. But
The brandy, I told myself. Probably be a good idea to stay away from it. Stick to what you're used to. Stick to bourbon. I went on over to Armstrong's. A little bourbon would take the edge off the brandy rush. A little bourbon would take the edge off almost anything. ~A Stab in the Dark
Ah, Matt. Things are getting pretty dark for you my friend. Rock bottom is rushing up to meet you at about 200 miles an hour. It's going to hit like a freight train and I'm afraid you won't even see it coming. C
Feb 27, 2014 Mara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was in kind of a cranky mood when I began this installment of my adventures with Matthew Scudder- in one of those nitpicky modes where anything that can annoy you will do so. I even got so far as starting on a bit of a tirade regarding the use of an icepick as a murder weapon (see below). But, this is what makes Lawrence Block such a stud of an author- if I had just been patient, I would have saved myself from my own ramblings re. the dangerous weapon of choice, as Scudder, too, takes issue wi ...more
When you’ve hit a point where you’ve read hundreds of books and age starts to degrade your memory, you sometimes doubt your previous assessments. I’d read most of the Scudder novels anywhere from 10 to 15 years ago, and while I thought they were very good, I’d started to wonder if they were actually as good as I remembered. Having reread the first four, I’m very happy to find that these are actually even better than I originally thought.

Matt gets hired by a man whose daughter, Barbara, was suppo
Dec 11, 2012 Tfitoby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
Days off, laying on the sofa reading. Sweet dreams are made of these. Add a drunken PI on a self destructive life path and the dream turns slightly darker. Hooray for Lawrence Block!

Matt Scudder, unlicensed PI returns for his fourth instalment, this time doing a favour for a bereaved father who has recently discovered that his dead daughter is the only "victim" of a captured serial killer that he couldn't possibly have murdered. Once more treading the unsafe streets of New York, bourbon and coff
Aug 16, 2012 Carol. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Scudder fans
Shelves: mystery, male-lead
A lightweight read at only 156 pages. Good suspense and interesting mystery.

In this one, a serial killer is caught by police. The catch? He only confesses to seven of the murders and has an airtight alibi for the eighth. The father of the eighth victim realizes he needs a new kind of closure and hires Scudder to investigate. He pursues it like a terrier; hanging on, chasing down leads from nine years ago, drinking his way through the city. After he interviews the remarried husband and his new wi
This is by far, my favorite of the Scudder books at this point. Once again, I am presented with the 5 star problem. With the other 3 getting the same rating, how do I differentiate between the installments? I don't have an answer for that. Stop making me feel bad!

I really wanted to open this review with the line, "My favorite part was when Scudder drinks coffee with bourbon" (get it? 'cause that's like 90% of the novel) but I thought better of it. Scudder's boozing is totally out of control in A
Richard Vialet
*3.5 Stars*
It's going to get harder and harder writing fresh reviews for these Lawrence Block novels, that don't sound terribly repetitive! Once again he has written a solid piece of detective mystery fiction in this latest installment in his Matthew Scudder series, about an ex-cop who lives a lonely life in a hotel room in Manhattan and does "favors" for people as an unlicensed private investigator. In this novel, Scudder takes on a nine-year old cold case after a serial killer is finally caugh
Cathy DuPont
Mar 27, 2013 Cathy DuPont rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Forever Questions Answered About New York City Boroughs
From the book...
SoHo is from South of Houston (street location)
Tribeca is from Triangle Below Canal


Matthew Scudder is such a tortured anguished, unlicensed P.I. I hate that overused word for these protagonist and hate that word protagonist, too.

Let's say Scudder has some definite daytime and night-time mares (Cockney slang, folks, easy to figure out.)

Those mares walk with him every waking and sleeping moment for this ex-cop who r
Nov 11, 2010 Mohammed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is my fav Scudder so far and not because of the plot,mystery he has to detect this time. It was the atmosphere,Scudder himself running around in NYC and making the setting coming alive so well. Scudder struggling with his alcoholism,his life in general is interesting as always. The case was interesting,not too flashy,convulted plot twists like there is too often in PI stories. I like it was mostly instinct,legwork much more realistic than what you usually see in the subgenre.

After this
Jun 23, 2015 Ctgt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-noir
My least favorite of the Scudder books so far. My enjoyment of this series comes from Scudder dealing with all his personal issues not from the cases he runs. Not that the cases are bad, that's just not what thrills me. This book had a couple of those moments, talking with another cop who left the force, discussing drinking habits with a new girlfriend, a phone conversation with his ex-wife but not enough for me. Block does a good job of portraying the mundane aspects of investigating but that's ...more
Aug 05, 2015 Truman32 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Stab in the Dark, the fourth entry in Lawrence Block’s fantastic Matthew Scudder detective series, is another strong (and bleak) tale.

The Icepick Prowler has been apprehended, and now finally closure can come to the families and friends of the eight women horrifically murdered by this fiend. Well, make that seven of the families. This maniac with an affinity for skewering young women throughout the Five Boroughs with an apparatus intended only for breaking up ice to chill our refreshing bever
Mithun Prasad
Nov 03, 2015 Mithun Prasad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had plan to read at least three books from other authors before I go back to Lawrence Block. But like Matt Scudder's obsession with bourbon, I am obsessed to Lawrence Blocks' books. And the sight of the unread Lawrence Block books occupied in my modest library is just irresistible.

A serial killer tabloided as Icepick prowler who picks eyes of innocent random women after he stabs them to death, gets caught by utter fluke and indicted presumably for eight murders.He confesses to seven of those
Jan 02, 2015 Meg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a great series! Ex-cop and unlicensed PI Matt Scudder is a brilliant flawed hero. My New Year's resolution for 2015 is to read more Lawrence Block books!
Benoit Lelievre
Nov 06, 2014 Benoit Lelievre rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's a Lawrence Block cult among the crime fiction readers and although I really liked the first couple Matthew Scudder novels, I didn't understand where all that reverence was coming from.

I understand now.

Scudder picks up the pace in A STAB IN THE DARK. He starts struggling with the idea that he is an alcoholic and it starts spilling on the other aspects of his life. When the father of a long dead murder victims offers him to take the case, Scudder has difficulty dealing with the mediocrity
Block crushed it with this Scudder novel. My favorite so far in the series. This one has all the great detective work of the others, but what really shines is the way Block darkens Scudder's character in the process. The self-assurance that the series will continue shows in how Scudder is portrayed. One technique I loved is the way Scudder probes other characters who have "dropped out" similar to how he quit the police force. As he questions them he is also questioning himself. Their answers ref ...more
Apr 11, 2015 JanB rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Matthew is asked by the father of a woman murdered 9 years ago, to look into the case. Originally thought to be a victim of the Ice Pick Prowler, new evidence proves that she was the lone victim who couldn't have been killed by the serial killer.

As Scudder sifts through the clues and questions the people closest to the case, he continues to fight a losing battle with his demons. He's a complicated guy and his descent to rock bottom is what makes these books so much more than a simple procedural
Oct 19, 2014 Maddy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-reads
SERIES: #4 of 17
WHY: Matt Scudder, unlicensed PI, is convinced to look at the murder of a young woman named Barbara Ettinger nine years earlier. Her supposed killer, the "Icepick Murderer", eventually murdered 8 woman. But it appears that she may have been killed by a copycat. The plot is fine, but of more interest is the fact that Scudder is relying heavily on booze to make it through the day.
A long time ago I convinced myself that I wasn't interested in any "PI novels" written since the Golden Age of Hammett and Chandler. Occasional forays into the genre supported my stubborn position: I found Spillane's Hammer unintentional parody; I found Parker's Spenser milktoast; and I've done my best to avoid most of the other bestselling private dicks of the past few decades. John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee ended up being the exception that proved the rule (of course, Trav isn't really a PI) ...more
Apr 29, 2015 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-challenge
Liked this standalone better than some. Mystery with twists, solved despite Scudder's growing alcoholism. He may live to have other adventures, which I will read. Nicely interpreted and read by William Roberts. Sex scenes, lite language with some gory descriptions. I use fast-forward a lot in most of Block's novels whether reading or audiobooking. 2002 text/2013 audio ...more
Jan 24, 2014 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
And the engrossing series continues. Matthew Scudder still drinking his way to the solving of a murder that happened nine years ago. Enjoying the glimpses to New York during the 70s. Liking the way Scudder works his way through a case, even a case long gone cold.

What makes a whiskey bourbon?

"The law. While knocking back a dram of bourbon is a decidedly carefree exercise, making it is exceedingly technical and requires that the whiskey meet a rigid set of criteria. The Federal Standards of Identi
Jan 30, 2016 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: action, fiction, crime
Glad to get to the end of the book. I'm not much of a fan of alcoholic former cop detectives. Don't think I will be reading another Scudder book. Did remind of the days when you needed to find a pay phone and a telephone book in order to call anybody! 2 Stars
Perry Whitford
Oct 07, 2015 Perry Whitford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nearly a decade after his savagely murderous career, the Icepick Prowler is finally caught, purely by chance, and immediately confesses to seven of the eight murders attributed to him at the time.

But not to one of the eight, the murder of a married child-care assistant from Brooklyn named Barbara Ettinger, which occurred while he was temporarily incarcerated.

So Barbara's father, Charles London, knows that whoever killed his daughter is still on the streets, only the police won't touch a case gr
Arlene Allen
The early Matt Scudders are a quick read. That doesn't take away from the darkness present in each book - short does not equal cozy when you pick up a Lawrence Block. Matt investigates a nine year old murder and the results are not pleasant for anyone. A rather depressing entry in a series not known for lightness.
Jan 26, 2013 Bobbi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-detective
Oh, Scudder. These blackouts and walking around day-drunk are not a good sign. But you still manage to get shit taken care of, don't you?

I must say this one is a little different in that he didn't get to know the victim, or a good clear picture of her, like in the previous books. It makes sense, of course, since the murder took place nine years ago. The theme was more about wives and families and the relationships between them.

Don't let that dissuade you, though. There's nothing not to like, a
Mar 25, 2015 Ozgur rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Klasik Block ustalığında yazılmış bir polisiye. Chandler'ın hard boiled üslubuyla McBain'in ekonomik anlatımının güzel bir karışımı Scudder serisi. Bu kitap da ilk sayfadan itibaren alıp götürüyor.
If you love a simply good mystery, you'll love this one by Lawrence Block. In the fourth installment of the Matthew Scudder series, Matt Scudder is assigned a 9-year-old cold case murder of Barbara Ettinger from her father, Charles London. Scudder, ex-cop and an alcoholic, is on the case, and talked to the people involved in the case, including her family. One by one, he's building up facts and compiling theories, while people tried to scare him off. He didn't phase him. He kept on talking to pe ...more
Dec 22, 2011 Ensiform rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
The fourth Scudder novel, in which the unlicensed alkie PI takes on a nine-year-old murder case. The woman wasn’t killed by a serial killer, as previously thought --- but then who? In searching for the answer, Scudder digs up family secrets and opens cans of worms, tenaciously plodding after the truth until he finds it. As usual, the truth is not pretty, and opens up more moral questions than it solves, at least to Scudder. Well-paced, extremely gripping and with an expert eye for human foibles, ...more
Ben Peyton
Jan 21, 2016 Ben Peyton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is great stay inside in January because it is 15 degrees outside reading. I thought it was interesting how this time Scudder had to solve a killing with almost no information. He just floated around NYC learning about people's past lives and their troubles. He thought about how the killing he was trying to solve was like a rock thrown into the pond and all the lives that were changed by it were the ripples caused by that. It could have gone all wrong but it was a nice. I also think the leng ...more
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  • Pale Gray for Guilt (Travis McGee #9)
  • Trouble in Triplicate (Nero Wolfe, #14)
  • Backflash (Parker, #18)
  • A Savage Place (Spenser, #8)
Received the Shamus Award, "The Eye" (Lifetime achievment award) in 2002.

From his web site:

I'm told every good author website needs a bio, so here's mine:

"Lawrence Block's novels range from the urban noir of Matthew Scudder (A Drop of the Hard Stuff) to the urbane effervescence of Bernie Rhodenbarr (The Burglar on the Prowl), while other characters include the globe-trotting insomniac Evan Tanne
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)
  • Eight Million Ways to Die (Matthew Scudder, #5)
  • 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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