Out on the Cutting Edge by Lawrence Block
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Not topnotch in the Scudder series, Out on the Cutting Edge is still nonetheless a quality Block book.
While the three star rating (it would be closer to 3.5 and I rue GR's lack of half stars!) might seem low for a "quality" book that I would still recommend, I have my reasons. The biggest problem with this one is that our aging, alcoholic, ex-cop turned unlicensed private detective hero Matthew Scudder doesn't really solve the crime. I mean he puts the pieces together, but the pieces fall into his lap by chance.
HOWEVER! He does solve another crime that you might not have seen coming. There's a nice twist towards the end. But that's part of the problem. A lot happens at the very end and the lead up to it is long and drawn out due to a lack of action. Scudder books could hardly be called "action-packed" by the longest of stretches, but usually there's a little more balance. Even the tension, that harbinger of action, is mostly absent.
None of that hardly matters though. I can still find a good deal of enjoyment in these books even when the plot doesn't pack a punch and all we do is watch Scudder go on dates and to AA meetings. Block's descriptions of NYC from back in the day (this one is set in the late Summer of '86, if I have my baseball references correct) and his excellent characterizations are utterly enjoyable to lose oneself in. He makes you feel like one of Scudder's buddies (if Scudder had anyone you could call a "buddy"), just hanging out with him during his wanderings about the city, like taking a Sunday drive with someone real chill. But no one here is what you would call "cool". These people have seen some shit and have the scars to prove it. The good guys, the bad guys, and all the guys in between (actually most fall into the "in between" category) have been slapped about by life. In this series, Block paints life perfectly.
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