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A Long Line of Dead Men: A Matthew Scudder Mystery [Paperback]

Lawrence Block
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book by Block, Lawrence

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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

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Still great after all these years. May 4 2011
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Reading. June 19 2004
This is an exemple of how to make a very good book from a good idea. This was my first Scudder's book and still one the very best.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Tontine Society Feb. 5 2004
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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5.0 out of 5 stars explosive and engaging June 16 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The premise is unusual - a secret society of businessmen, that started in ancient Babylon and has continued to this day. A set of 31 men, who gather once a year for a dinner, and patiently wait until only one remains, who selects 30 young men to regenerate the process. But somebody has noticed the current crop is dying at a rate well off the life insurance actuarial charts. Several of these deaths are obvious murders, but others that were dismissed as suicides or accidents are now being re-examined. Matt Scudder is employed to found out if there is a sinister plot to thin the ranks, and if so, why.
This book was outstanding. I love Lawrence Block's writing style, whether he's writing about Matt Scudder or Bernie Rhodenbarr. Can Matt Scudder uncover a mass murderer who has patiently worked for years before he strikes again? You'll be on the edge of your seat as you read this one.
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4.0 out of 5 stars too much AA May 24 2003
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I just read this for the second time, having run out of reading material, and enjoyed it again. Block is an excellent writer, making an interesting read in spite of an unlikely plot. The club of 31 is quite uninteresting, yet Block managed to hold my interest with his great character development and descriptive writing.
I have to say, though, I am tired, fed up with the AA stuff. Block's depiction of the AA crowd is accurate, I think, based on my experience with a friend, and his buddies from AA. They spend the rest of their lives telling everyone they can about how bad they were, with obvious nostalgia for the bad old days. It is inescapable, though, that they are losers before and after their joining AA. Maybe that is Block's point, as Scudder is a flat personality, whose outlook is grim, and basically boring outside occasional excitment during his investigations.
Is Block an alcoholic?
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1.0 out of 5 stars Good beginning, poor ending Feb. 14 2003
By Frank
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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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent Scudder book ...
If you like Scudder, you'll love this one. Lots of twists and turns that you don't expect. I recommend reading all the Scudder books from the beginning chronologically the way... Read more
Published on Nov. 6 2002 by Siobhan Tobin
4.0 out of 5 stars Scudder getting dull with age? Uhh...
Maybe, but the novel is still a wonderful one. Sure, Matt Scudder is getting older, so he's less active (like a dull razor). Read more
Published on May 15 2002 by Robert T.
5.0 out of 5 stars Older Scudder's Still Got It
Scudder has been sober for almost 10 years in this novel, and the trademark battle between himself and the bottle is more or less under control. Read more
Published on May 6 2002 by Robert T.
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent Hardboiled P.I. Fiction
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. Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2001 by Brian D. Rubendall
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best
It's a good reading, but compared to the expectation concerning the title, it's actionless. The last 50 or 60 pages are very good, but the others are very slow. Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2001 by Paulo Renato Rey
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, true Scudder
Matthew Scudder is Lawrence Block's remarkable private investigator. He's a former NYPD detective who left the force after an accident left a child dead in a crossfire. Read more
Published on Dec 2 1998 by Harold L. Laroff
2.0 out of 5 stars Compare to his old works, this one is totally unreadable!!!!
I've always worried about an author once he becomes rich and famous. Because once he is too successful and cashing in too much, his writing inspiration would soon be jarred by his... Read more
Published on Sept. 17 1997
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