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4.3 out of 5 stars10
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on September 3, 2003
Let me preface by saying I'm a huge Scudder fan, so the three star rating is compared to the entirety of the Scudder saga. In this entry, the clean and ostensibly happily domesticated Scudder is hired by a vagrant's brother to clear the vagrant of a shooting. The victim happens to be a distant acquaintance of Scudder's, and though Matt didn't like the guy much, he ends up having a desultory kind of affair with his widow. Meanwhile the accused killer is himself killed in prison, leaving a stubborn Scudder to attack the closed case (or as his cop friend puts it, "trying to give a dead horse mouth-to-mouth resuscitation" --- love that noir dialogue). This is only an average Scudder entry, which means that it's a bleak look at a seedy world, rife with witty dialogue and sharp insights into AA philosophy. Probably because the case here is so cold, however, a lot of drama in the sense of personal danger or action is lacking. There's much of the traditional amoral, detatched soul-searching, which is terrific, but none of the rough justice Scudder usually hands out.
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on June 30, 2001
As if Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder series wasn't already the quirkiest private detective series around, "The Devil Knows You're Dead," is Scudder's most unconventional story yet. Superficially, the novel is about Scudder's attempt to prove that a deranged homeless man did not randomly gun down a successful lawyer. But actually, the novel is a dissertation about death and the choices one makes in life. During his investigation, Scudder's ex-girlfriend Jan Keane discloses to him that she has terminal cancer and asks him to procure a gun so that she can end her life before the pain consumes her. Meanwhile, Scudder and his current love, the former call girl Elaine Mardell, are moving closer together, even as Scudder becomes more restless and Elaine begins to question the direction of her own life. To top it off, Scudder's restlessness causes him to begin an affair with the dead lawyer's wife that he is ashamed of but unable to stop. This causes him to question whether he will be able to continue his sobriety despite over ten successful years in AA.
All of this accompanies a mystery that is interesting in and of itself, but not nearly as menacing as most Scudder mysteries. The recurring charater of the street kid TJ also shows some progression in his life during the story while assisting Scudder's investigation. Overall, I wouldn't recommend this novel as the place to start reading Scudder since to truly enjoy it requires a lot of the previous background of the characters. But for those who already know how good the Scudder novels are it is a must read.
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on February 17, 2002
The Devil Knows You're Dead is a very well written book that held my interest throughout -- however, I have been a big fan of this series from the beginning. Mystery fans who are looking for lots of action and suspense may want to skip this book. Relative to several of the other books in this series, there is considerably less physical violence and more --much more-- of a concentration on the emotional havoc and angst that Matthew Scudder is experiencing as he makes his way through his topsy-turvy world. The cases Scudder is working on in The Devil Knows You're Dead are interesting but they are not exciting and action-based. So, if this is what you're looking for in a mystery you probably should choose another book. If you enjoy great character development, interesting and likable secondary characers, vivid and accurate descriptions of the Hell's Kitchen/Clinton section of NYC, then treat yourself to this very good book. Keep in mind it's not the best book in this series but it's one I think you'll enjoy. However, I would strongly recommend that if you haven't read any of the books in this series, you first read at least one or two of the earlier books (e.g., When The Scared Ginmill Closes, A Ticket To The Boneyard, A Dance At The Slaughterhouse, A Walk Among The Tombstones, etc.) before reading The Devil Knows You're Dead. These books will familiarize you what the world of Matthew Scudder has been like. This book serves pretty much as a vehicle to further evolve the main character of Matthew Scudder and to let you know where he's moving to in his life.
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on December 2, 1998
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. But that was years and probably took place sometime in the past before the first Matt Scudder novel. "The Devil Knows You're Dead," is Block's 11th in the series. (As of this writing there are 13.) This is a fast paced story in which Scudder finds he is asked to solve the death of a Yuppie lawyer living in an area of Hell's Kitchen. Matt and his girlfriend Elaine spent an evening and Glenn Holtzmann, the lawyer, and his wife Lisa. From the beginning Matt doesn't like Glenn. Glenn is killed and a homeless vet is arrested and accused of the murdering Glenn. Scudder is asked to prove that the vet didn't do the crime by his brother. Of course one thing leads to another as the truth unfolds. The relationship between Elaine, Matt's girlfriend becomes more serious as they plan on buying an apartment together. TJ, the streetwise African-American teen is back assisting Scudder. As I have said in other reviews of Matt Scudder novels. They are like potato chips. You can't quit after one.
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on September 28, 1997
Probably the best novel in the series by Lawrence Block starring the ex-alcoholic, free- lance detective, Matt Scudder. Scudder is asked to help solve the mystery of the death of a prosperous lawyer on on of Manhattan's toughest streets. The real killer is caught, or is he? The lawyer is an outstanding citizen, or is he? There is a sub-plot involving Jan, Scudder ex-girl friend and her death from cancer. As usual the author shows how AA helps Scudder face his problems without drinking. There is more plotting than usual in the series, with the story unfolding in strange ways. Scudder's stick-to-the-pavements brand of detecting turns up some answers. But as in real life, not everything is solved.
It is hard to believe that Block after ten previous novels with the same detective and other characters can come up with such a great novel, but he has.
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on January 19, 2001
I've enjoyed crime novels written by various authors for many years. This was the first book I read by Lawrence Block and it's still my favorite of his, which would make it my favorite among all I guess. Here I discovered a murder mystery unlike others. The beauty is that the story doesn't end with the solution of the crime. Instead of fast paced action you find a plodding investigator nosing around for clues to the identity of a victim whose life was more mysterious than his death. When the case is finally resolved, all the characters have already moved on with their lives. In fact, the more interesting tale is that of the survivors. Scudder, Elaine, TJ, Mick, Jan, all become your friends and neighbors and you find yourself caring much more about them than the victim or the crime itself. A remarkable portrait of very realistic people and events.
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on February 3, 2002
I did not chose this book, it was required for a writer's workshop. When I sit down to read a detective novel I expect it to be about detecting. In The Devil Knows Your're Dead I was not the least bit interested in the personal issues / problems of the main character of this novel. The murder happens on page 17 of 316 and there is absolutely zero progress on solving the crime until about 231 pages into it. The intervening pages are mired in musings about alcoholism, transexuals, the morality of suicide, yada, yada, yada. B-o-r-i-n-g. I guess there is a market for this type of mystery (...) but give me Christie, Stout or Sayers and I'm happy. You can keep Block all to yourself.
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on November 17, 1997
I agree with "quinton"; this is a great book, one of Block's best. As a recovering alcoholic myself, I find Scudder's travails all too real. Block must be a recovering alcoholic himself to have such a clear understanding of the alcoholic's predilictions, temptations, and character flaws. Readers who enjoy the Scudder novels for the same reasons I do will also probably enjoy the "Dave Robicheaux" series by James Lee Burke.
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on November 5, 2002
Captivating story .. this one will keep you burning the midnight oil and turning those pages. Lots of Mick Ballou in this one .. personally, I love Mick. If you enjoy his character, this will definitely be a book you shouldn't miss. This falls about 2/3 of the way in the Scudder series to date. I couldn't put this one down from the second I started it.
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on May 14, 2015
liked series
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