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The Night and the Music (Matthew Scudder) Paperback – November 20, 2013
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
I love the Matthew Scudder series. One of the great short stories of all time is the Edgar-winning "By the Dawn's Early Light."
--Otto Penzler, L.A. Times
"One Last Night at Grogan's" has a beautifully elegiac feel to it, and if it does turn out to be the series' farewell, it's a good one."
--James Reasoner, Rough Edges
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Top customer reviews
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It included one of the stories in this anthology, “The Merciful Angel of Death.” This is one of my favorite stories from this collection of Block's work. Matt Scudder is investigating the possibility of a serial killer who's murdering AIDS patients at Caritas. But it's not that simple. He watches as she helps a patient die without touching him, not that she didn't occasionally give one of them a shove. This story is not the traditional mystery story, usually a rehashed version of an “Ironside” episode from the 20th century. It was topical and philosophical, and it made you think.
My other favorite from this collection is “Let's Get Lost”. Matt is still a cop, married to his first wife, living on Long Island, still drinking, but he's having an affair with a high-priced hooker named Elaine. A man had a heart attack and died while in her bed, and Matt handled the situation for her. Now he had the reputation of a fixer, someone who takes care of problematic situations. In this case it's a weekly poker game, and one of the players winds up dead. The other four players say he answered the door in the middle of a hand and someone stabbed him. Matt smells a rat right away. He tells them the police will never believe that, and he sets up an alternative scenario. What he's really done is sniff out evidence that the players' version isn't what really happened, and the reader sees what a great detective Scudder really is.
If you're looking for a new detective series that makes you think a bit, you might try THE SINS OF THE FATHERS or WHEN THE SACRED GIN MILL CLOSES. There are about ten full-length novels and they're all better than the usual tripe, that is unless you're bothered by a detective without a license who walks all around New York City, attending AA meetings while showing you the city and working a case.
“Out the Window” and “A Candle for the Bag Lady” were written after the 3rd novel In the Midst of Death when Scudder was still drinking heavily. Both are excellent mysteries in line with the tone of the early books. However, the second story contains a bit of a spoiler for the 4th novel A Stab in the Dark. The motivation of the killer in “Bag Lady” was identical to the one in the novel.
“By Dawn’s Early Light” – Won an Edgar Award. Later expanded and incorporated into the 6th novel When the Sacred Ginmill Closes.
“Batman’s Helpers” – Explores the murky ethics of copyright trademark enforcement. From a strictly narrative standpoint, this story lacks punch, but interesting nonetheless. Occurs after the 7th novel Out on the Cutting Edge.
“The Merciful Angel of Death” – A bleak look at New York’s response to the AIDS crisis and an exploration of the murky ethics of assisted suicide. Published the same year as the 11th novel The Devil Knows You’re Dead
“The Night and the Music” – A contemplative vignette showcasing New York’s jazz scene in Greenwich Village. Occurs after the events of A Long Line of Dead Men.
Looking for David – A particularly sad and hardboiled tale inspired by Michelangelo’s sculpture of David, with a jolt of an ending. Matt and Elaine spent their honeymoon in Europe; this story occurs during that trip.
“Let's Get Lost” – In this prequel story, set before the first novel, Scudder helps some men cover-up a suspicious death and in the process arrives at the truth. This one is not so much noir or mystery as it is O’Henry-ish.
“A Moment of Wrong Thinking” – Scudder recalls an unresolved case from early in his career and considers several possible scenarios. Occurs after Hope to Die.
“Mick Ballou Looks at the Blank Screen” – This short-short is essentially just a fluff piece, but it fills in an important gap in Mick’s personal life between the end of All the Flowers Are Dying and the beginning of A Drop of the Hard Stuff.
“One Last Night at Grogan's” –Matt, Elaine, and Mick Ballou reminisce for the final time at Grogan’s Open House. The final elegiac prose-poem for the series.
I'd read some of the stories in the collection in anthologies available to the general public (i.e., Alfred Hitchcock, Ellery Queen, etc.), but as Block details in his closing notes, some of the stories have not been available in print before.
I had just finished "A Drop of the Hard Stuff" and apparently was heavily into my Scudder-addiction (I've discovered it just takes one). I quickly turned to the next book on my Kindle to help feed the obsession, the addiction, the craving. When I came across "The Night and The Music", I thought at first that perhaps I could do some controlled reading. If I limited myself to one story a day, I could make this book last about a week and a half. Ah, but one story is too many and the whole book, not enough!
I loved the stories in this anthology. I enjoyed that it was only Matt Scudder and that it included stories from the beginning of the series through to the end. I appreciated the ones that were a one/shot case, the ones that filled in some blanks or were character studies. I would be hard pressed to select a favorite from the whole lot. However, as other reviewers have shared, "One Last Night at Grogan's" (and the fact that it has been printed nowhere else, but was written specifically for inclusion in this volume) was the best gift an author could offer his fans.
Thank you, Lawrence Block. Thank you.
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