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Out on the Cutting Edge

(Matthew Scudder #7)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  3,075 ratings  ·  182 reviews
Matthew Scudder Crime Novel #7. A master.... Lawrence Block's estimable private eye Matthew Scudder is one of the most fully developed and credible characters working in the genre today (Chicago Tribune). New York is a city that seduces dreamers... then eats their dreams. Matt Scudder understands the futility of his search for a longtime missing Midwestern innocent who wan ...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published August 6th 2002 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1989)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  3,075 ratings  ·  182 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
Apr 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is a typical Matt Scudder mystery: slow as molasses, slim on plot, very grim—and totally absorbing.

Scudder—the unlicensed private detective who “does favors” for money—has two cases to solve: 1) the disappearance of young actress/waitress Paula Hoeldtke from Muncie Indiana, and 2) the mystery of his new AA buddy Eddie Dunphy, who makes an appointment with Scudder to discuss something in his past that bothers him and is found dead in his apartment—apparently of auto-erotic asphyxiation—the n
James Thane
Matthew Scudder is now three years sober, but he's still living in his tiny Hell's Kitchen hotel room and prowling the increasingly mean streets of New York as an unlicensed P.I. Crime is rising; the city seems dirtier than ever, and the number of homeless and other street people seems to be rising dramatically.

Into all of this steps Warren Hoeldtke, a Subaru dealer from Muncie, Indiana. His beautiful young daughter, Paula, graduated with a degree in Theater Arts from Ball State, and then set ou
Dan Schwent
A car dealer from Indiana hires Matthew Scudder to find his missing daughter, who went to New York to become an actress. Meanwhile, a fellow AA member of Scudder's dies in his apartment in what appears to be an accidental death. Can Scudder find the missing girl and figure out what really happened to his friend?

Out on the Cutting Edge is yet another of Lawrence Block's great Matthew Scudder books. As usual, the ending was a big surprise. The character of Mickey Ballou was a nice contrast to Scud
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people looking for a good mystery
Another fine entry into the Scudder canon. Scudder is always saying he's had a flexible kind of morality, but the truth is, he's one of the most ethical people around, and this book shows the extent of his growth. He tries to do right and be fair, even if it's dealing with a small-time hood or a menacing Irishman with ties to organized crime. As always, characterization shines, and the plotting isn't anything to sneeze at either. The search for a missing woman gives Scudder focus, and now that h ...more
And so begins the second phase of Matt Scudder.

Block had written about Matt trying to get sober in the mid-‘80s with 8 Million Ways to Die, and then he had done a flashback novel when Matt was still boozing during the ‘70s in When the Sacred Ginmill Closes so there’s been a pretty substantial gap in Matt’s timeline when this story starts up in 1989. (Thanks to winning an ARC of the upcoming A Drop of the Hard Stuff, I can report that Scudder fans will get some more info about what Matt was up to
Dave Schaafsma
On the Cutting Edge is Lawrence Black’s seventh crime novel focused on Matthew Scudder, an ex-cop and (finally) sober alcoholic trying with great difficulty to keep some balance in his life. As a detective, he is always on the “cutting edge” of death. He’s killed and people have tried to kill him. As an alcoholic, he’s always on that cutting edge, too, one drink away from the hospital; he lives each day with the guilt of having accidentally killed a little girl; he imagines her at the age she wo ...more
Potentially Unnecessary Preamble
I have this thing, a compulsion perhaps, wherein I cannot not finish a book (yes, that double negative needed to happen). I always worry that the ending will be so amazing as to have made any pain involved in the process worth it (that, and I've managed to convince myself that if I don't finish one book I'll just never finish another book again). Let me be clear, I love me my Matthew Scudder way too much to even consider not finishing one of his exploits, but

Scudder is three years sober when we run into him again in Book 7, Out on the Cutting Edge. He's faithfully attending meetings, and even leading a few when the mood strikes him. He's also still living in his spare hotel room lodgings and with a lot more time on his hands now that he's quit the bar scene and sipping bourbon coffee by the quart. While the vapor fumes of booze no longer waft from his person, there is yet an elemental quality of loneliness that continues to seep from the pores of ou
Jason Koivu
Not topnotch in the Scudder series, Out on the Cutting Edge is still nonetheless a quality Block book.

While the three star rating (it would be closer to 3.5 and I rue GR's lack of half stars!) might seem low for a "quality" book that I would still recommend, I have my reasons. The biggest problem with this one is that our aging, alcoholic, ex-cop turned unlicensed private detective hero Matthew Scudder doesn't really solve the crime. I mean he puts the pieces together, but the pieces fall into h
Oct 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Man, am I going to be sad when I officially get caught up and I have no more Scudder books to read. Good thing I have about 11 more to go!

When you pick this book up, you're going to notice some major changes to the Scudder universe. At the end of Eight Million Ways to Die, Matt comes to terms with his alcoholism and attends - and participates - in an AA Meeting. At the beginning of this novel, Matt is 3 years sober and is heavily involved in the program. Also, we meet a new character (Mick Ballo
It's been a little over three years since the events in the stellar Eight Million Ways To Die, and Matt has successfully been able to stay sober and regularly participate in AA meetings. A man hires him to track down his missing actress daughter and we're off to the races with my next Matthew Scudder read!

The actual mystery storyline of the missing actress is one of the least interesting of all the Scudder books so far, but witnessing Matthew's struggle to maintain sobriety in Manhattan and his
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Slow, easy start, great dialogue and a Terrific second half, 4.5-stars!

Two small mysteries that grow and grow, great pacing, rhythm and dialogue, good complexity, some terrific characters, especially Mickey Ballou. This book is almost up to the extraordinary quality of "8 Million Ways to Die". Wonderful stuff!

As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary of the book. Thank you.

I'm reminded of the UK tv show, Inspector Morse, one of my all-time favourites. Each story
This series has become the benchmark for me of what a great PI book series is. I compare it to every detective book stories i have read before and everything i will read from now on. It is the best PI book series i have read of any era. I hold Hammett the best writer of this kind but his series was short stories with The Continental Op. Block series has surpassed the others with similar books.

The only real flaw in the novel was that Scudder was more lucky than he did good work in the case he wo
Benoit Lelièvre

Perhaps my favorite Scudder since A STAB IN THE DARK and maybe even my favorite. What differentiates this one from the other books in the series is that Scudder doesn't really have a case here. He's investigating the cold trail of a disappearing girl, but mostly OUT ON THE CUTTING EDGE is the story of him struggling with his newfound sobriety and seeking solace in all the wrong place and, most important, all the wrong people.

Read it, it's heartbreaking, fantastic and extremely rewar
Cathy DuPont
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
AA is no longer such a secretive organization thanks to Matt Scudder and his life now as a member of the somewhat secretive group. Secretive only because of the nature of why they meet, they're all alcoholics. This amounts to nothing for me except furthering my knowledge of the world around me.

Interesting storyline and Matt is at his best but the primary reason I gave it four stars is the ending. It is as surprising as an out of the blue firm slap on the face. OMG, really, Matt? You figured it o
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
We're all whirling merrily through the void on a dying planet, and gay people are just doing their usual number, being shamelessly trendy as always. Right out in front on the cutting edge of death.

After a flashback to the 70s in the previous Matt Scudder book we're back to his present with the seventh instalment; Matt's in AA now, been clean for over three years, and he's passing out wallet sized photos of a missing girl, an actress from Muncie, Indiana who fled small town life to make it as an
This is a decent detective novel, the story about the reach for a missing young woman isn't very dramatic but I enjoy going along with the main character on his quest to solve the disappearance of the missing woman, then a man he knows was also what is going on? Is the local gang involved? In the end, the above questions are answered and we got to the end of the quest knowing a little more about our main character, etc. ...more
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one heck of a book. Scudder is now sober for more than three years and active in AA. A fellow member, feeling anxious about something he had done. discusses the possibility of using Scudder as his sponsor to verbally acknowledge these acts confidentially. He is soon found dead, discovered by Scudder who was concerned when he was missing from meetings. This develops into a very tricky situation I won't spoil.
The main assignment for our man Scudder is to discover how a young woman from In
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scudder
After two books that were mainly about Scudder's relationship with booze, Out on the Cutting Edge shifts the focus back on the mystery. A small town girl seeking big city thrills disappears in NYC and one of Scudder's Alcoholic Anonymous acquaintance suffers an unfortunate accident just before he was going to make a major confession to Scudder. The first one ends with a coincidence that I had trouble buying into but the second one delivers in spades with a resolution that I didn't see coming.

I f
Nov 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two for the price of one, although the investigation into Eddie’s death has more coincidence and serendipity than one would like. Then again, serendipity had much to do with the rationale for Paula’s death.

Matt’s looking for Paula. Referred to by a local cop, Matt is “hired” by her father to find her. She has disappeared with no trace. She’s 24 and Matt put her picture on the back of his business card. That often leads to wiseacres calling and asking for money in return for information when all
Fred Nanson
Feb 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scudder investigates, meets interesting new people and delivers hard but honest truths about human nature.

Slow but very good. Certainly one of the best in the series so far.
Moira Russell
I bought this book because I couldn't find Eight Million Ways to Die at the local half price chain, and I wanted that book because this is one of the few series I've heard of in which the cop/detective is a recovering alcoholic. (I loved Lennie Briscoe on Law & Order for many, many years because of the background they gave him.) I started idly flipping through it, got hooked pretty quickly and finished it in a couple of hours -- it went down neat (heh) and Block is a good Plain Stylist with tigh ...more
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At this point it seems like Block will never, ever let me down when I want a solid Scudder story. Dude spins plot and dialogue like it’s his birthright. The emotional power of this one wasn’t on the level of the previous two but there’s just something so pleasurable about watching Scudder go about his daily life. Many others have pointed out these books aren’t so much about plot (although I haven’t read one of these that didn’t have at least one super-satisfying mystery) as they are about Scudde ...more
Sep 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All who love New York, and all who struggle with addiction
Shelves: mystery, nyc
The very first 'sober Scudder' novel, and the one where we first meet Mickey Butcher Boy Ballou.
Not a very good mystery (my definition is: all the clues were there, you just missed some, or you failed to connect the dots; here the clues are only revealed at the end, when Mickey solves one case and Matt confronts the murderer in another.)
A very, very good novel none the less, where you really get to know — and love — Matthew Scudder and his "not today" struggle for sobriety; it is also a moving p
Maggie K
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
So, this is so far my favorite of the Scudder books. It has some great, realistic characters, a good mystery that seems unsolvable, and indeed, does only solve by odd coincidence. The only annoyance I had was that we werent shown the clue that helped Matt know who killed Eddie, but then it would have all been so obvious if he had, so I guess I cant complain....

I am wondering about why Scudder is considered morally upright and Travis McGee is not. They are actually a lot alike!
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Scudder. With added Ballou!
Sep 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scudder explaining to a dad what he'll do to look for his missing daughter: "I don't have a day rate and I don't keep track of my hours. I just go out there and do what seems to make sense. There are a batch of basic steps to take for openers, and I'll go through them first, although I don't really expect them to lead anywhere. Then there are a few other things I can do, and we'll see if they get us anyplace or not. When it seems to me that your thousand bucks is used up I'll ask you for more mo ...more
Hugh Sturrock
Scudder on the mend spending less time in bars and more in AA meetings. Favorite part of this story was the introduction of Mickey "The Butcher Boy" Ballou. Hope he reappears in a future Scudder tale. ...more
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alcoholic ex-cop turned unlicensed private detective Matthew Scudder returns. Scudder, a little over three years sober, is hired to investigate the disappearance of a young ingénue from the Midwest. He doesn’t want the job, the trail is too cold and the clues are nonexistent, he tries to convince the young woman’s father that it would be money wasted, but when the father insists Scudder reluctantly accepts the job. With little hope that the girl will ever be found the detective goes through the ...more
May 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy Block's stuff, and only discovered the Scudder character after the movie "A Walk Among the Tombstones" which after reading several of them don't think it exactly captured the Spirit of the novels.

Scudder isn't a private investigator. He's never followed through the process of getting sa license. He's an ex-cop battling alcholism (in this case he is sober, but in the earlier books, he is still drinking)... He takes an occasional "job" and begins to go about asking questions, etc. This ti
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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)
  • 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)
  • When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (Matthew Scudder, #6)
  • 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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“I wanted a drink. There were a hundred reasons why a man will want a drink, but I wanted one now for the most elementary reason of all. I didn't want to feel what I was feeling, and a voice within was telling me that I needed a drink, that I couldn't bear it without it.

But that voice is a liar. You can always bear the pain. It'll hurt, it'll burn like acid in an open wound, but you can stand it. And, as long as you can make yourself go on choosing the pain over the relief, you can keep going.”
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