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When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (Matthew Scudder #6)

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  3,355 ratings  ·  167 reviews
Downing a bourbon or two with a couple of cronies, Scudder witnesses a heist. The Morrisey brothers who run the joint are strangely submissive during the raid, but eager to see Scudder track down the thieves without involving the regular forces of law and order.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published 2000 by Orion (first published 1986)
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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

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.

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
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
James Thane
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
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
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
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

 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
Richard Vialet
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
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
Benoit Lelievre
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
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.
Dennis D.
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
Sep 07, 2014 Darren rated it 4 of 5 stars
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

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
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
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
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,
Oct 19, 2014 Mark added it
An unexpected and wonderful 6th installation in this sort-of PI series, WHEN THE SACRED GINMILL CLOSES defies almost every expectation the reader coming to it in sequence might have. We left Matt Scudder in #5 (EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE) at a crucial moment in his life: recognizing he was an alcoholic, and committing to change his life. Rather than pick up at that point, it seems as if Lawrence Block didn't really know what do to with his protagonist sober (or struggling to remain so) . . . so i ...more
Linda Robinson
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.
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...
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.
Jun 21, 2015 mark rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: men, heavy drinkers
Recommended to mark by: Tara
The title comes from the song Last Call (1973) written and sung by Dave Van Ronk. It’s haunting, as is this novel. I suspect it is taken from the author’s experience—that of a heavy drinker, a functioning alcoholic. Yes, the genre is Mystery/ PI/Crime; but that’s just the hook. It’s really a buddy (drinking) book about the bar scene (ginmills); in New York city in the mid 70’s. The protagonist is Matthew Scudder, a resigned NYPD detective (resigned after a ricochet from a good shoot kills a chil ...more
Block's fifth Matt Scudder book, this is expanded from a short story ('By The Dawn's Early Light' included in Some Days You Get The Bear). The plot from that story isn't developed much, but rather wrapped around additional plots and characters that tie in less directly than thematically.

The detective and mystery elements of the book aren't the main focus: instead, the book is really about a certain kind of loneliness and desperation, the feeling of being (as the title, drawn from a song lyric th
Jan 11, 2011 Hobart rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: thoughtful mystery readers
Shelves: 2011-reads
I'll be honest, I'm sticking with this series primarily because of the author's reputation, though Eight Million Ways to Die did impress me. I was fairly dismayed when I started this book and it looked like all the progress that Scudder made during his outing was tossed out without explanation or comment. A relapse, or backslide, etc. would've been acceptable if Block had done it right (obviously), but to just start off the book without noting that he'd fallen off the wagon was just horrible.

This novel was something of a resurrection for alcoholic private detective Mathew Scudder as author Lawrence Block had originally intended to end the series after the fifth book Eight Million Ways to Die. Luckily Block had committed to write an original short story for an editor friend and that short story - featuring Matthew Scudder - was later expanded into this novel which brought the series back to life.

When the Sacred Ginmill Closes has Scudder recalling the summer of 1975 (from the vantage
"When the sacred Ginmill closes" ("Nach der Sperrstunde) ist eine Rückschau in den Sommer 1975. Detektiv Matt Scudder hat zwei Fälle zu lösen oder, wie er es lieber nennt, Freunden gefällig zu sein.
Die Fälle nehmen im Buch jedoch wenig Raum ein, weshalb es schwierig ist, den Roman als reinen Krimi zu bewerten.

Es ist eine Kneipentour mit herrlich trunkenen Dialoge... Eine Variante von Barfly, nur nicht so dreckig oder die nie endende Reise nach Petuschki.
Nur dass die Fälle am Ende doch noch gel
Perry Whitford
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
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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)
  • 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.” 1 likes
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