"The Divine Comedy" - hardly a comedy.
"The Catcher in the Rye" - not a baseball book.
But "A Dance at the Slaughterhouse" - you don't go into it expecting Mary Poppens and it wasn't.
In Matt Scudder's mind, money, power, and position elevate nobody above morality and the law. Now the ex-cop and unlicensed p.i. has been hired to prove that socialite Richard Thurman orchestrated the brutal murder of his beautiful, pregnant wife. During Scudder's hard drinking years, he left a piece of his soul on every seedy corner of the Big Apple. But this case is more depraved and more potentially devastating than anything he experienced while floundering in the urban depths. Because this investigation is leading Scudder on a frightening grand tour of New York's sex-for-sale underworld -- where an innocent young life is simply a commodity to be bought and perverted ... and then destroyed.It was bars, hookers, a snuff film, torture, threesomes, graphic sex and lots of murder. In other words, a great Thanksgiving read.
But Block, in all his brilliance, weaves an interesting narrative throughout all those torrid events. The main character is Matthew Scudder, a former cop, recovering alcoholic. Many proffer that Scudder's struggles with sobriety (he attends many AA meetings throughout the novel) is biographical of the author's, though Block has never admitted such. (This is the ninth book in the Scudder series.)
A friend once told me that when Jamey Johnson sings his songs you can tell he's walked the walk. The way Block writes about Scudder's emotions certainly suggests he knows more about alcoholism than a Google search would provide.
The book is best described as raw - not blood and sex just for the shock. The emotions, the scenes, the relationships - none of them are cookie-cutter character descriptions. They're deep. That's what makes Block one of my favorite all-time authors. (I wish he would write an autobiographical novel about his times with my other favorite author and his best friend, the late Donald Westlake.)
Thankfully, Block is a prolific writer and still writing. He's fun to follow on Facebook and his monthly email is an enjoyable read. Check out any of Block's novels for a great read, but maybe don't start with this one until you're tough enough.
I gave it an 8 on the 10-point Haugenometer. Goodreaders a 4.2 and Amazonians a 4.4 of 5. Pretty stellar stuff.