Kemper's Reviews > The Night and the Music

The Night and the Music by Lawrence Block
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's review
Dec 11, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2011, crime-mystery, detectives, scudder, short-stories
Read from December 11 to 12, 2011

This was a good year for fans of Lawrence Block’s detective Matthew Scudder. First we got a new novel with A Drop of the Hard Stuff and then this collection of short stories.

In Matt’s long history he’s gone from alcoholic ex-cop dealing with the guilt of accidently killing a child while breaking up a robbery to his eventual sobriety all while acting as an unlicensed private detective who follows his own sometimes odd brand of justice instead of a law book.

These stories cover all the phases of Matt’s life and showcase his complex nature. In one story, Matt becomes enraged at the sleazy boyfriend of a dead woman for stealing her possessions and goes out of his way to screw with him even though he knows he’s not guilty of killing her, yet he’ll also sit down and have a nice lunch with a man he once sent to prison for murder. Matt spent his career identifying various shades of gray in other people and himself and still managed to hang onto his moral compass and a basic sense of decency.

Summing up the stories:

Out the Window - Matt’s still drinking and looks into the apparent suicide of a waitress who worked at his favorite gin joint.

Candle For the Bag Lady - Another one where Matt is still boozing. A neighborhood bag lady was stabbed to death and Matt is surprised to learn that the woman had money and left him a tidy little sum for no reason he can think of. Feeling an obligation he doesn‘t really understand, Matt starts looking into the murder and his investigation gets the neighborhood talking and turns the woman into a minor folk hero with surprising consequences.

By the Dawn’s Early Light - No AA for Matt yet. His drinking buddy Tommy’s wife is murdered and he hires Matt to help solidify the evidence against the two burglars accused of the crime. This is the story that inspired Block to continue the series after he thought it may have reached a conclusion and it’s the basis for the novel When the Sacred Ginmill Closes.

Batman’s Helpers - Holy crossover! Matt Scudder teams up with Batman. Sort of. Matt works a freelance gig for a big agency trying to get bootleg Batman merchandise off the New York streets.

Merciful Angel of Death - The administrator of an AIDs hospice fears that a mysterious woman has been killing the patients and asks Matt to investigate.

The Night & The Music - Matt and Elaine hit New York's after hours clubs to hear some jazz. This is just a very short story with no crime at all, but I got to hear Lawrence Block read this one years ago at a signing for Hope to Die so it’s one of my favorites in the book.

Looking for David - While on vacation in Europe, Matt bumps into a man he had once sent to prison for murdering his male lover. Surprisingly, the man invites Matt to lunch and tells him exactly why he committed the crime.

Let’s Get Lost - Another flashback story when Matt was still a cop, and he provides some odd advice to players at a poker game who have a murdered man on their hands.

A Moment of Wrong Thinking - Yet another flashback to his police days where Matt tells Elaine of how his partner handled a case of apparent suicide.

Mick Ballou Looks At the Blank Screen - Matt’s best friend Mick wants to talk about the Soprano’s finale and share some news.

One Last Night at Grogans - Written especially for this collection, Mick has sold the saloon where he and Matt spent so many long nights talking, and the two of them and their spouses spend one last evening in the bar. Hard not to think that this may be Block having Matt take one last bow at the close of the series, but if this is the end, then it was a perfect way to say goodbye.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Great review, Kemper. Another one to add to my Matt Scudder must read list.

Kemper Stephen wrote: "Great review, Kemper. Another one to add to my Matt Scudder must read list."

Thanks! It's a great collection for fans of the series.

James Thane It's nice to have all of these stories finally together in one place. And "One Last Night at Grogans" is very bittersweet - a great story.

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