Matthew Scudder is sitting at a bar, nursing a club soda, reflecting back on a case he worked nearly twenty-five years ago…
Recently forced out of the NYPD, his life was spiraling out of control due to his alcoholism. He was going clean, a month shy of his one year anniversary of being sober, attending AA meetings and working as a private investigator in an attempt to get some control on his life.
When he is reunited with a childhood friend from the Bronx, High-Low” Jack Ellery, Scudder begins to look back on his life as a former detective and an alcoholic. Ellery is close to completing the twelve steps of the AA program. He becomes a sort of mentor for Scudder; in addition to coming to terms with his alcoholism Ellery is also making amends for the crimes he committed years ago. Now on the eighth step of the program, his working down the list of people he has harmed, attempting to seek forgiveness and amends for his actions
When Ellery is killed, it becomes Scudder’s mission to track down the murderer. Ellery was shot once in the mouth and once between; a clear sign that someone wanted him to keep his mouth shut. Is Ellery’s killer someone on his list? Did he stir up secrets long hidden? In order to find Ellery’s killer, Scudder is forced to immerse himself in Ellery’s life; an action that comes close to driving him to drink again.
A Drop of the Hard Stuff takes fans of Block’s Matthew Scudder series back in time, to a pivotal moment in Scudder’s life. While I’ve only read a handful of the sixteen books in this series, I really appreciated the look into Scudder’s past, the actions that made Scudder the man he is now. Readers new to the series get a look inside one of the characters that has really shaped my love of crime fiction.
The characters are completely flawed, the storyline multi-layered; two traits that really entice a reader to embrace this series. Block does a tremendous job of portraying the steps to recovery in the AA program and a completely honest look at the recovery process. There is really never a dull moment with in this book. While I can’t deny it’s a little on the dark side, there are glimmers of hope and a happy future.
Block excels at writing one of the best detective series in American crime fiction. This series is one I can always rely on to entertain, excite, and impress me. Each time I pick up one of Block’s books, I know, without a doubt, that I’m going to be fall in love with it. The first book in this series in six years, it was a real treat to be reunited with such an impressive character.
Like Block’s other books, A Drop of the Hard Stuff is a book that stays with you long after you read the last page. This is a talent you do not find in a lot of books nowadays; you won’t find a neatly wrapped up plot here. While this irritates many, I enjoy a book that lingers with me. It’s inspired me to go back and start the series from the beginning and relive the exceptional writing of Lawrence Block. Highly recommended.