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A Long Line of Dead Men: A Matthew Scudder Mystery Paperback – 1994


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Paperback, 1994
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380806045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380806041
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 263 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,415,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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It must have been around nine o'clock when the old man stood up and tapped his spoon against the bowl of his water glass. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

By Jill Meyer HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on May 4 2011
Format: Paperback
I just finished Lawrence Block's latest Matt Scudder book, "A Drop of the Hard Stuff". It's his first book in a few years and I found it of 5 star quality and wrote a review for Amazon. But it is not Block's best Scudder book. That was "A Long Line of Dead Men", originally published in the mid-1990's. (After the first attack on the World Trade Center but before the second.) I make it a habit to reread the book every few years, but I hadn't done so in about 5 years. So, I went back and read it, hoping it would be as good as I remembered it. And it was.

Lawrence Block's novels - and he has had several series using different characters - are never particularly action-filled. Oh, people get killed - in Block's "Keller" series a lot of people get killed - but he's not a graphic writer. In the Scudder series, Block writes in the first person, as Matt Scudder. Scudder is a retired cop, a recovering alcoholic, and an under-the-table private investigator. People hire him to "look into things". And as I wrote in my review of "Hard Stuff", most of the Scudder series touches on AA and it's Step program. "Hard Stuff" was heavily into it and this book, "Long Line" also uses AA as a plot point. But the focus of this story is on a club - a private, secret men's group that meets yearly at a steakhouse in New York. The "Club of 31" meets to mark the march of life and death. Every year they enjoy a good meal, good drinks, good conversation, and list the men who have died since the club was formed. Then, when the club is down to the last man living, he chooses 30 young men to start the march all over again. The old list of names is destroyed and a new list of names begins as the 30 age. A long line of dead men.
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By Wyatt James on Feb. 4 2004
Format: Paperback
There is something appealing (to some people, including me) about a 'secret society' that only meets once a year or so and whose membership is selected with no particular requirements beyond the nomination, even though it is a matter of the whim of the nominator. No dues, no qualifications, no rules (except silence about the club). This one has just 31 members, the last one living selecting the next 30, and has gone on for umpty generations. Now somebody is killing the members -- is it to 'inherit' the chairmanship? Apparently not, since a leading member asks Scudder to investigate. Like Rex Stout's "League of Frightened Men" this is a classic of this sub-category of detective-novel themes. The mystery is intriguing, and I am happy to say that Matt Scudder is selected to become a new member in spite of there being some survivors. He should be very proud to belong to such a society (even though it isn't mentioned in subsequent books, but maybe that's because it's supposed to be a 'secret society' -- in which case why did Scudder write about it? -- oh, well, that's the only way first-person narratives get written in the first place). Great idea for an old-man club, though they start out young. Meet once a year, eat well, and sigh 'well, I'm still here'.
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Format: Paperback
I had the opposite reaction of a previous reviewer -- I liked the book until the last 100 pages.
It is then that, out of nowhere, Scudder's friend Mick Ballou brings up the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in a conversation. Mick reports that the names are "in no particular order," which isn't true -- they're listed in order of death. Mick says he booked a room in a "hotel across the street from the White House." The only hotel that fits that description is the Hay-Adams, across Lafayette park. Rooms at the luxurious Hay-Adams start at $300 a night -- a bit unusual for Mick Ballou, who is described as a brutal killer, a career criminal, and someone who drinks whiskey like water.
The sudden mention of the Wall is a plot device, of course, and Scudder later travels to Washington to check whether a certain name is on the wall. Of course, Scudder wouldn't have had to travel -- the Wall names are listed on the internet.
The dénouement is even worse. The group of respectable businessmen decides that the answer to their problems is to hold the killer in solitary confinement for life, in their own private jail cell, located on a small island in Lake Huron. The businessmen use the racist assumption that a "family of Cree Indians" who work as caretakers of the island will loyally and mutely participate in their conspiracy to kidnap and isolate the killer for life -- complete with a welded leg shackle.
The book started off well, but it really needs a different ending.
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Format: Paperback
I am a huge fan of hardboiled P.I. fiction, and this is the first Matthew Scudder book that I've had a chance to read. And while I found the book to be a bit on the slow side in terms of action, the plot was so fascinating that I couldn't put it down. The book's real subject matter is death, and as one character says, man is the only animal who knows he's going to die. He's also the only animal that drinks. Somehow, there must be a connection. Those strictly interested in shoot-'em-ups and continuous action should look elsewhere. Those who like their P.I. stories on the philisophical side will love it.
As a character, I found Scudder interesting, especially his background and his continuous battle with alcoholism. Like any good P.I., he inhabits the landscape around him (in this case, Manhattan) so well that he becomes part of the scenery. I also didn't mind the fact that he was involved in a stable relationship (often a weakness in other P.I. serieses. A classic P.I. ought to be a loner). His love interest is just quirky enough to add spice to the story and isn't used merely to give him a contrived vulnerability. Overall, the best compliment I can pay is that I don't expect that this will be my last encounter with Scudder.
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