Jaime's Reviews > A Drop of the Hard Stuff

A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block
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May 13, 11

bookshelves: mystery, private_investigator
Read in May, 2011

I imagine that when you’ve written 16 books in a series that spans a few decades, you start to wonder about when your character needs to retire. Alternately, you can bring us back to his past, which is exactly what Block has done in this latest Matthew Scudder novel.

Really, it’s a stroke of genius. Some people don’t like to pick up a book this late in a series, but set it sometime after book #5, and you not only thrill your fans with a nostalgic trip to the past, but you have the chance to pick up new readers as well.

A Drop of the Hard Stuff is set towards the end of Scudder’s first year of sobriety. Alcoholism is a major theme, with Scudder living his life from one AA meeting to the next. When Jack Ellery is murdered while working his steps, Scudder feels almost compelled to find out what happens. It’s hard to tell whether it’s because he feels bad for Ellery, or if he worries that he could some day suffer the same fate.

It seems that everything Scudder does involves a decision about whether or not he will remain sober. Even the smallest thing, like choosing in which direction to walk down the street, or how to handle his annoyance with his girlfriend, seems like a major crossroad. I have no personal frame of reference, but Block makes us feel Scudder’s struggle, and think about how much the little things matter. How one miniscule step in the wrong direction can drive the entire train off the tracks. It makes you think.

Overall, I really enjoyed this, and I’m looking forward to reading more of the earlier books in this series.
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