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The Sins of the Fathers

(Matthew Scudder #1)

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  8,763 ratings  ·  641 reviews

The pretty young prostitute is dead. Her alleged murderer—a minister's son—hanged himself in his jail cell. The case is closed. But the dead girl's father has come to Matthew Scudder for answers, sending the unlicensed private investigator in search of terrible truths about a life that was lived and lost in a sordid world of perversion and pleasures.

Paperback, 182 pages
Published 2000 by Orion (first published 1976)
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3.87  · 
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 ·  8,763 ratings  ·  641 reviews

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Bill  Kerwin
May 21, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

They tell me the Matt Scudder series starts slow, that it hits its stride with his fifth adventure, Eight Million Ways to Die. I don't know about that—at least not yet—but one thing I can say for sure: The Sins of the Fathers is plenty good enough.

Scudder was once a cop. But then a seven year old girl is killed by a ricochet he fired in pursuit of a robber, and, even though he is exonerated—hell, they even give him a commendation—he finds he just doesn't have the heart to be a cop anymore. Now h
James Thane
I'm updating this review in March, 2016, principally to change the edition. As I suggested in my original review, this is the first book in my favorite of all crime fiction series. My original copy is a reprint from 1991, which is when I first discovered the series. At the Left Coast Crime convention this week, I was browsing in the book room and discovered that one of the rare book dealers there had an excellent copy of the first edition from 1976. It's the one pictured here, and I was thrilled ...more
Standing among the crowd of burned out, “ex-cop,” morally suspect private investigators inside the dingy, cluttered, dimly lit literary bar called "Mysteries," Matt Scudder manages to stand out and sparkle shine, despite his seeming overabundance of unassumingness. Well appearances deceive and depth takes time to appreciate. Trust me when I say you haven’t met Matt Scudder before.

This guy is an original. Scudder isn’t the macho, “steely-eyed” superior type. He doesn’t gruffly walk around badass
Dec 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
As my first bit of book reviewing for the new year (being started seven minutes into the new year, yep another exciting new year's eve with me reporting on books here on goodreads), I'll admit that I was wrong in my opinion of Lawrence Block. For years I thought nothing of him, I thought he was another of those male macho writers, sort of a mystery version of say a Vince Flynn, or a Brad Thor, or some other preposterously monikered hack. Or I thought he was the type of writers old men read, like ...more
Dan Schwent
When call girl is murdered and her roommate/killer hangs himself in prison, the girl's wealthy stepfather hires Matthew Scudder to investigate the girl's past and find out why her life ended the way it did. Scudder's investigations lead him through a web of sex and lies...

Wow. Lawrence Block always keeps me entertained but this was one hell of a read. It's less than 200 pages but one of the more powerful pieces of detective fiction I've read in years. I figured Scudder would unearth some bad thi
On the surface, Matt Scudder would appear to be something of a lowlife.

As a cop in New York in the 1970s, he wasn’t above taking bribes or framing someone. After he accidentally shot and killed a child while trying to break up a robbery, he quit the cops and left his wife and two sons to live in a hotel in Manhattan. He makes his living as an unlicensed private detective who refuses to keep records or file reports, and he gets information by bribing various cops and government workers. He drinks

I've finally found my way to Matt Scudder. And ladies and gents? There ain't no going back. I'm intrigued, a little titillated, crushing for sure, maybe even falling in love. I had my reservations at first. I don't "do" hardboiled detective stories. I have a kink for classic noir films that has never translated into a love for that hyper-masculinized breed of pulp fiction. I chalked it up to "dick-lit" and moved on, assuming these stories were written for the menfolk, and would contain very litt
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: who-done-it
It’s been awhile since I’ve read a Matt Scudder book. The previous one was Eight Million Ways to Die, which was made into a horrible movie starring Jeff Bridges. I don’t know if watching this botched cinematic attempt to capture Lawrence Block’s character tempered my desire to pursue the books, but I can honestly say I’m sorry I waited so long to re-boot my interest in the series.

Although the plot is a good one (it revolves around Scudder’s attempt to bring some closure to the brutal murder of g
Jason Koivu
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Once upon a time I picked up a Lawrence Block book. I liked it, so I tried another. The next one was from his Matthew Scudder series. Now I'm hooked.

Scudder debuted in 1976's The Sins of the Fathers as an alcoholic ex-cop who had recently quit the NYPD and left his family after accidentally causing the death of a young girl. Living in a rent-controlled hotel room in Hell's Kitchen, he earns his living as an unlicensed private investigator—or, as he puts it, "doing favors for friends." - Wikipedi
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of hard boiled crime and detective fiction
Recommended to Lawyer by: goodreads group Pulp Fiction
The Sins of the Fathers: Lawrence Block's First Matt Scudder Novel

Dell First Edition, 1976

"The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children."--William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act Three, Scene Five, Line One

All right. I admit it. I'm turning 60 in two days. And I've never read Lawrence Block. How could this happen, all you Block fans ask?

Lawrence Block introduced Matt Scudder to the world of detective fiction in 1976. No, I wasn't on an extensive Bi-Centennial celebration.
Aug 01, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: male-lead, mystery
Straightforward, clean and classic, The Sins was the perfect book for a lazy afternoon in the sun. Decent characterization, a serviceable investigation and the seedy side of 1970s New York all contribute to a fast read.

The first book in a long-running series introduces Matthew Scudder, a 15 year veteran of NYPD who retired after an accidental shooting of a seven-year-old girl. That incident became a breaking point, an emotional trauma that is shared with the reader in bits and pieces. Now living
May 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: september-list
My Conversation with Grand Master of Noir Lawrence Block On his writings, Matthew Scudder, and his anthology pipeline.

Dead son and a dead daughter.
Father and son, Father and daughter all have a dark past and all weigh up in the play of good and evil.

Suicide is tragic and a last call out of turmoil and distress, it’s a sin even Scudder knows that otherwise he himself confesses to contemplating taking that road. Scudder ex-cop turned Private Investigator was on the force for almost sixteen years
It seems that lately, everywhere I turn, Lawrence Block's name comes up. This is probably due to some of the company I keep here on this site. But in my opinion, that's a good thing. It led me here and intrigued me to read this book.

I imagine that the Scudder series is one of those that just keeps getting better with each book. I hope that's the case, anyway - not because the first book wasn't great, but rather because it gives me something to look forward to as I read through them.

I really li
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, crime, thriller

Holy shit, this was good. Very good. Why did I leave this on my wish list for over 3 years. Because I'm an idiot. Scudder is a hard boiled detective in a world gone by before the Internet, mobile phones, openly bribing police. Although saying that, he's not a detective of sorts. He used to be in the police but there is a backstory there which I won't say about here.

This was another foray into audiobook territory for me, with it being only 5 hours long and some great reviews from friends I
David Schaafsma
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
“I was looking for something, but I didn’t know what it was.”

I first read John Snyder’s comics adaptation of Lawrence Block’s Six Million Ways to Die, then read Block’s original novel, and thought I would make my way through the series, beginning with this first volume. Block is a hard-boiled detective writer, focused on the hard-drinking Matthew Scudder, who is separated from his wife, having quit his job on the police force, in large part because, while off-duty, he had accidentally killed a 7
In “A Diet of Treacle” Lawrence Block detailed the depths to which young adults fleeing to the city in the early sixties had reached. That books showed a world of drugs, prostitution, depravity, and bloody apartments. A decade later, Block introduced the world to the character of Matthew Scudder in “The Sins of the Fathers” and, in many ways, revisited the idea of what happened to kids who left college and sank into the netherworld of New York City in the early seventies. In particular, this is ...more
Edward Lorn
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone, I think, has their favorite P.I., whether they be the positively geriatric Mike Hammer or the more modern Cormoran Strike. My P.I. is, was, and always will be Matthew Scudder, although Scudder will be the first to tell you that he's not licensed. Like classy ladies of the night, he accepts gifts not payment.

I think what I dig most about Scudder is how he treats others. He doesn't hit women. He doesn't bash gays (in fact, in later books, he has a transvestite friend, a relationship tha
Mar 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
I needed a hole to fill the VOID left by my consumption of the John Connolly Charlie Parker series. Luckily, Connolly has a new book coming out in September, The Burning Soul. Until then, I needed a detective series of substance. A character so cool, so awesome, that I could branch out from Charlie Parker into another series. I've actually had this book on my to-read list for several months now. I have no idea what took me so long to pick it up. I mean, it's not like Kemper, Dan or Stephen had b ...more
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime, mystery
It’s not that often I delve into the noir-ish side of crime, though it’s not because I have anything particular against it — the whole class of casually drinking, smoking and screwing detectives with cynical attitudes don’t repel me, whether it be Brandstetter, Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade. Or, in this case, Matt Scudder. It comes down to the individual detective, and in that sense, Scudder probably comes out neck and neck with Brandstetter. He’s involved in a case that seems sordid, yet he avoid ...more
Feb 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
If you're entering the world of Matthew Scudder, you better brace yourself for some dark and delicious detective work. I don't know why I keep wanting to use adjectives normally reserved for coffee blends to describe this book. I'm pretty sure evenly-roasted isn't a term intended for literary review, but this story (and Scudder himself) just hit every note I never knew I needed for a supremely satisfying read.

Scudder is neither hero nor villain; he goes by his own rules and defies what might be
Jun 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: black-as-night
Lawrence Block does it again!

The man sure can write. This is a tight little novel, the debut of Matt Scudder and an enjoyable piece of 70's noir. He's an ex-cop with a drinking problem exchanging favours to get by. The murder-suicide of a prostitute and a gay guy serve as a background for his introduction to the reader and an excuse for him to drink as much as possible.

His journey kicks over some rocks that some people would have preferred to have remained in place and leads to the inevitable co
Jun 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of the better Noir novel
I did start well into the series with the book that was made into a movie with Liam Neeson, and continued into the direction of the more recent publications. And now I found myself with the first novel of the series in which there is no AA but a lot of drinking by Matthew Scudder former policeman turned into investigator of the not so legal variety.

When call girl is murdered and her roommate/killer hangs himself in prison, the girl's stepfather hires Matthew Scudder to investigate what made the
Larry Bassett
Feb 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, crime
This was a paperback mystery when it was first published in 1976. The edition that I am reading is from 1992, is the first hardcover edition, and has an Introduction by Stephen King. In 1991 King published Needful Things. According the Wikipedia, “It is the first novel King wrote after his rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol.” King’s introduction includes a discussion of the alcoholism of series protagonist Matthew Scudder. In all, I found the ten page introduction more enjoyable than enlighte ...more
Cathy DuPont
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another one of those writers who I’ve heard and read about but never took time to read.

Apparently Lawrence Block has been an influence to other popular writers for a number of years now; writers who I have enjoyed reading for years. Never got around to reading Block though, he could wait. Just seemed that another James Lee Burke or Michael Connelly or Robert B. Parker got in the way. My loss, my loss especially since I’ve had plenty of opportunities; he’s been writing since the 1950’s and this b
Apr 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Lawrence Block
I picked up the Kindle version of this for 99c (all of Lawrence Block's back catalog is on sale on

As for my review: I liked it a great deal. It was a quick, compelling read. The main character was a likable rogue, the mystery was complex without being too convoluted, and the solution had some nice twists to it.

My only issue is with the title. The Sins of the Fathers. Now, if you hadn't read this yet, like I hadn't, wouldn't you think you knew who the killer was?

Well, you would be c
I've listened to another in this series, so it was nice to listen to the first one. No real surprises. Typical Block, very understated. Scudder is likable if a rather aimless character. The mystery was OK, a little obvious, but not bad at all. The way Scudder solved it was perfect.

I have the next book in the series, but I'm reading another mystery in paperback & don't like having 2 books of the same genre going at the same time. Too easy to get confused. Besides, I'm not in any rush. Scudde
Thomas Todd
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was my first Lawrence Block novel I've read. This book is also the first in the Matthew Scudder series. Nice quick read with a good ending
Book Concierge
A pretty young woman is found in a pool of blood; she’s been slashed repeatedly with a sharp instrument. Her male roommate is found on the street nearby, covered in her blood, exposing himself and babbling incoherently. Arrested for her murder, he hangs himself in his jail cell. The case is closed. But the dead girl's father has come to Matthew Scudder, an ex-cop and unlicensed private investigator, hoping for answers; he’s been somewhat estranged from his daughter and he wants to know how she c ...more
Jun 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book in the Matthew Scudder series. Published in 1976, it has none of the technological advances around today, but I remember those times and it felt like visiting my past. How many of us have put a dime in a payphone, huh?

Scudder is a former cop working independently. He is asked to investigate a young woman's death by her father. Because the young man accused of killing her quickly committed suicide, the police close the apparent open-and-shut case, but the father needs to un
Apr 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Well, hell, I guess I'm going to have to read this series now too.
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Pulp Fiction: January 2013 - The Sins of the Fathers 85 108 Jul 06, 2013 01:19AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Fix of the fathers 3 27 Nov 25, 2012 04:26PM  

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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

Other books in the series

Matthew Scudder (1 - 10 of 17 books)
  • 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)
  • 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)
“Something I learned long ago. It is not necessary to know what a person is afraid of. It is enough to know the person is afraid.” 14 likes
“Dangerous thing, giving humanity the knowledge of good and evil. And the capacity to make the wrong choice more often than not.” 11 likes
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