Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Dance at the Slaughterhouse (Lawrence Block, 1991)

I kind of liked Matt Scudder introductory book and decided to give a try to another one. Did some research and got impression that Dance At the Slaughterhouse is the best of the series. But now, after reading it, I just wander if my research techniques suck or maybe the rest of them are so bad. I certainly hope that latter is not true.

So Scudder is now 15 years older (I guess; first one was published in 1976) and he's not drinking anymore. Which is fine (good for him definitely) but the problem with this sobriety shit is that every few pages he needs to go to the AA meeting. I'm not sure to what purpose this habit serves narrative-wise but it sure doesn't help suspense building. And if you think he had replaced church visits with these AA meeting, you are wrong. But more about that later.

It starts with another of his unofficial employments or favors as he calls them. He's asked to do one for a young gay man dying of AIDS who's troubled by the death of his sister. It's a kind of perfect murder because even police knows that her husband did it but they cannot prove it. So far so good, we are all ready for Matthew to do some kick ass unorthodox investigating.

Not quite. Because, you see, in his spare time he gets involved into another mystery that includes - please, not again one of those - infamous snuff movies. In our (his) case these are even more disgusting because victims are young kids. But still, let's not be to hasty in our judgments and wait for plot(s) to start rolling.

They eventually do and - surprise, surprise! big fucking spoiler coming up - it turns out they are connected indeed. But they are linked in some totally far-fetched way that doesn't really make any sense when you think about it. But even that is not the biggest flaw.

Biggest flaw is that it simply doesn't move anywhere. Mr Block seems to have some literary complex because he's trying to write next Nobel prize kind of shit and not focusing at all on its "mystery/crime" aspect. He's working much more on dark and depressing atmosphere (which is awesome btw) and his characters relationships than on decent plotting. While stuff with Elaine is somehow at least bearable, the whole thing with his buddy Mick is just ridiculous. We have this stereotypical cartoonish Irish hard-drinking gangster with (of course) big golden heart and our AA hero has these childish moral dilemmas whether to is cool to hang out with him or not. And at the end they both go to the church to repent for their sins. Pleeeeese...

Little advice to finish this ranting - just skip entire 13th chapter (22 pages) because it contains nothing but some buddy-buddy babbling and it's got nothing to do with the plot.

Big disappointment!



Matt Scudder, ex-cop now, now P.I. freelancer. Unorthodox, even eccentric.

New York

Body count
Hard to count. 7 definitely (2 good, 5 bad) + one kid most probably + one pimp (but it's not clear whether his killing is related to our story)

AA meetings
at least 25

None really, certainly no femme fatales. There's a mysterious leather SM madam Olga and his call-girl/friend/fuck-buddy Elaine

Dull and not too accurate. It features celluloid film roll which is wrong because our snuff movie was found taped on VHS copy of Dirty Dozen.

None. He's not drinking anymore and is too cautious to get beaten

Cool lines
Pete's All-American has been there for generations but remains an unlikely candidate for the National Register of Historical Places. It has never been anything but a bucket of blood.

After we crossed the bridge the silence was only rarely interrupted. Maybe a locker room's like that in the minutes before a championship game. Or maybe not; in sports they don't shoot the losers.

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