Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The sins of the Fathers (Lawrence Block, 1967)

This is the first one in the still ongoing (approaching 20 books) series of Matt Scudder mysteries and it’s a bit boring one to be honest. I think it tries too hard to be unusual and original. For the start it builds on this premise that it isn’t really crime novel since there is no crime to start with!? Thing is that our hero is just hired to uncover secret past life of murdered girl so her step-father can cope with her dead. And our hero is not really a detective, but as he puts it himself: “Private detectives are licensed. They tap telephones and follow people. They fill out forms, they keep records, all of that. I don’t do those things. Sometimes I do favors for people. They give me gifts.”

So he’s not stereotypical “by the book” kind of tough guy (although he kicks one mugger’s ass big time, takes his money and – check this! – breaks four of his fingers one at the time. What a bad ass!). Not much of ladies man either, once he cannot even get it up (probably because he’s too involved in the “case”). He’s divorced and has left police department because he had incidentally killed a little girl and this still haunts him so he’s drinking too much and lightning candles in churches and shit like that.

As far as mystery is concerned, things are of course not as simple as they appear (they never are in crime books), but we get pretty strong hint somewhere in the middle (as the title wasn’t big enough spoiler) and final revelation is everything but shocking.

All in all I kind of liked it but there’s simply not enough happening and it deals far too much with this guy and not enough with the story. I don’t know, maybe because it’s the first one with Block’s new hero and he needs more detailed introduction. Writing is superb and it really has this bleak and sometimes depressive tone and feeling. I’ll definitely check another of Scudder cases.



Matt Scudder, ex-cop who is now doing favors for people and gets gifts in return.

New York, early 70s

Wendy (victim), Marcia (her ex roommate), Trina (Matts’s friend/fuck buddy, I’m not really sure), Elaine (prostitute, also kind of Matt’s friend), Anita (Matt’s ex-wife, but we don’t really get to know her)

Body count: 3

Cool lines:
Sex – evil, unscrupulous sex – gives certain woman an extraordinary hold upon susceptible men. Man is weakling, Mr Scudder, and he is so often powerless to cope with the awful of an evil woman’s sexuality.

He sat few minutes in silence. I took out my flask and had another drink. Drinking was against his religion. Well, murder was against mine.

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