Larry A.'s Reviews > A Drop of the Hard Stuff

A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block
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's review
Feb 14, 2012

really liked it
Read in February, 2012

Among veteran mystery writers, Lawrence Block is one of the most underrated stylists because he has no recognizable style. He writes in a smooth, straightforward manner, and is very good at naturalistic dialogue. The pages turn effortlessly, but as Nathaniel Hawthorne once observed, "Easy reading is damn hard writing." In this Matthew Scudder installment, the recovering alcoholic/ex-cop must solve the death of Jack Ellery, a former boyhood friend who turned criminal before straightening out in AA. When Ellery tries to make amends for his past wrongdoings, as the Eighth Step of AA's 12-step program requires, someone in Ellery's past wants to shut him up. The method: Two shots to the head and mouth. In between the procedural tick-tock of Scudder tracking through Ellery's past to find the murderer, which is done extremely well, Block layers in an even more fascinating character study of Scudder's attempts to stay sober as his one-year anniversary approaches. The book shows the day-to-day struggles of the recovering alcoholic, his difficulty at forming meaningful relationships, the need to attend constant meetings and stay in touch with sponsors to help when the thirst threatens to conquer willpower. More than anything, this book shows how every day straight is a miracle, but also a temptation to stray and take a drop of the hard stuff. Block successfully merges both mystery/suspense, characterization and social case study in this excellent novel.
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