I’m a mystery book lover and I’ve read plenty of Edgar Award recipients. For the life of me, I don’t know why they pick some of the ones they do. Margaret Millar’s Beast in View is fine but it in no way should be considered better than Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. Some of the other winners I’ve not been impressed with either, especially ones by Stephen King and Noah Hawley.
Occasionally, they do get it right. The Laughing Policeman, Briarpatch and The Spy That Came In From the Cold are a few examples of recognizing true greatness.
You can add A Dance At the Slaughterhouse to the list. Wow.
This is probably the best Scudder book I’ve read in the series. Two mysteries at the heart of it but it reads more like a thriller. Block is always a readable hang but here I literally couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. And while there is a heavy dose of coincidence, and I don’t like coincidence, the way it resolves itself is of the highest quality.
I also like how Block allows Matthew to reckon with the things he’s done without being too heavy handed. I appreciate an author that is willing to truly step into a gray worldview as opposed to one who leans into moral ambiguity for the sake of making their protagonist look like a martyred hero. Block has come a long way with this series and he really trusts his readers. In this, it’s rewarded.
This book also doubles as an excellent time capsule of a New York City that, like the protagonist of the books, is on the edge of change as it enters the 90s. Matthew has to jaunt through the seedy Times Square that will be completely redone well before the decade is out. It still has that visceral edge of things spilling over at any moment but the cracks of change are showing. I’m looking forward to seeing how Block will portray the Giuliani era, which turned Manhattan into a theme park at the expense of many lower class folk who lived and work there.
I’m excited to go through the rest of the series but I don’t know how much better it can get than this.