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Louis Pinell, the recently apprehended Icepick Prowler, freely admits to having slain seven young women nine years ago -- but be swears it was a copycat who killed Barbara Ettinger Matthew Scudder believes him. But the trail to Ettinger's true murderer is twisted, dark and dangerous...and even colder than the almost decade-old corpse the p.i. is determined to avenge. Louis Pinell, the recently apprehended Icepick Prowler, freely admits to having slain seven young women nine years ago -- but be swears it was a copycat who killed Barbara Ettinger Matthew Scudder believes him. But the trail to Ettinger's true murderer is twisted, dark and dangerous...and even colder than the almost decade-old corpse the p.i. is determined to avenge.


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Louis Pinell, the recently apprehended Icepick Prowler, freely admits to having slain seven young women nine years ago -- but be swears it was a copycat who killed Barbara Ettinger Matthew Scudder believes him. But the trail to Ettinger's true murderer is twisted, dark and dangerous...and even colder than the almost decade-old corpse the p.i. is determined to avenge. Louis Pinell, the recently apprehended Icepick Prowler, freely admits to having slain seven young women nine years ago -- but be swears it was a copycat who killed Barbara Ettinger Matthew Scudder believes him. But the trail to Ettinger's true murderer is twisted, dark and dangerous...and even colder than the almost decade-old corpse the p.i. is determined to avenge.

30 review for A Stab in the Dark

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    This fourth book in the Matt Scudder series is an absorbing mystery in itself, but it also deepens and darkens Block's portrait of his hard-drinking, guilt-ridden hero, and, through the use of two effective foils (an alcoholic woman sculptor and a damaged former cop), increases Scudder's self-knowledge and points him toward change. Scudder is hired to investigate the case of Barbara Ettinger, classified as a victim of “The Icepick Killer” when she was murdered nine years ago. But “The Icepick Kil This fourth book in the Matt Scudder series is an absorbing mystery in itself, but it also deepens and darkens Block's portrait of his hard-drinking, guilt-ridden hero, and, through the use of two effective foils (an alcoholic woman sculptor and a damaged former cop), increases Scudder's self-knowledge and points him toward change. Scudder is hired to investigate the case of Barbara Ettinger, classified as a victim of “The Icepick Killer” when she was murdered nine years ago. But “The Icepick Killer” has recently been caught and—although he has frankly confessed to all the other crimes—he claims he had nothing to do with the Ettinger stabbing. Her father has begun to wonder: could the murderer be someone his daughter knew, someone closer to home? Scudder, fueled by coffee laced with bourbon, takes a trip through Barbara's old neighborhood, uncovering witnesses, secrets, and suspects, and—as bourbon overwhelms the coffee--a few glimmers of truth about himself. This is the first great Scudder novel, perfectly balanced between the tale itself and the evolution of the detective's character, and as such it is a crucial influence on the later adventures of Dave Robicheaux, Harry Bosch and others too numerous to name. Essential reading for anyone who loves the hard-boiled detective novel.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dan Schwent

    Nine years ago, eight women were gruesomely slain with an icepick. The killer was finally apprehended and it turns out he was in an asylum at the time of the eighth murder. So who the hell killed Barbara Ettinger? That's what her father, Charles London, is paying Matthew Scudder to find out... Lawrence Block does it again. In the fourth volume, Matthew Scudder struggles with his alcoholism and follows a trail nine years cold. Once again, Block did a good job tricking me into thinking I knew who t Nine years ago, eight women were gruesomely slain with an icepick. The killer was finally apprehended and it turns out he was in an asylum at the time of the eighth murder. So who the hell killed Barbara Ettinger? That's what her father, Charles London, is paying Matthew Scudder to find out... Lawrence Block does it again. In the fourth volume, Matthew Scudder struggles with his alcoholism and follows a trail nine years cold. Once again, Block did a good job tricking me into thinking I knew who the killer was. Scudder continues to struggle with his alcoholism. The supporting cast is well done, especially Jan. The Matthew Scudder series continues to be one of my favorites. Lawrence Block continues to wow me.

  3. 4 out of 5

    James Thane

    Matthew Scudder prowls the streets of New York City for the fourth time in A Stab in the Dark. By now the character has been firmly established: Matt is an ex-cop who left the force under tragic circumstances and who now works unofficially as a private detective. He doesn't have a license; he doesn't pay taxes, and he doesn't fill out paperwork. But sometimes he does a "favor" for a friend and the "friend" shows her or her gratitude by giving Matt money. He also drinks. Heavily by this point. But Matthew Scudder prowls the streets of New York City for the fourth time in A Stab in the Dark. By now the character has been firmly established: Matt is an ex-cop who left the force under tragic circumstances and who now works unofficially as a private detective. He doesn't have a license; he doesn't pay taxes, and he doesn't fill out paperwork. But sometimes he does a "favor" for a friend and the "friend" shows her or her gratitude by giving Matt money. He also drinks. Heavily by this point. But he refuses to consider himself an alcoholic and insists that he could stop anytime he wants to. He doesn't want to yet, even though he now experiences periodic blackouts. But still, his drinking is not yet interfering with his ability to get the job done. Insurance executive Charles F. London needs a "favor." Nine years earlier, his daughter, Barbara Ettinger, was viciously stabbed to death, apparently by a maniac who was known as the Ice Pick Killer and who claimed seven other victims. Finally, by a stroke of luck, the madman has now been captured. The only problem is that, while he admits to the seven other killings, he insists that he did not kill Ettinger. He also has an iron-clad alibi for the time Ettinger was murdered, given that he was in custody on that day. London had come to whatever peace he could find, assuming that his daughter's death was simply an inexplicable piece of bad luck. Now, though, his world is upended again when it appears that Barbara was killed perhaps for a reason and that the murderer is still at large. The cops claim there's nothing they can do, given the time that has elapsed, and so London walks into Armstrong's saloon and asks Scudder to take on the job. Scudder agrees, although he tells London that the odds are very slight. The trail will be just as cold for him as it is for the cops, and he doesn't even have their official standing. Scudder then does what Scudder does. After depositing ten percent of the fee in a church's Poor Box, he begins pounding the streets, tracking down his pathetically thin leads and fortifying himself with more than the occasional drink, for "maintenance" purposes of course. He's an enormously intriguing character and, as is always the case in this series, the plot is interesting and well-developed. As in the first three books, it's great fun walking the streets of the big city with Matthew Scudder, although by this point one can't help but be increasingly concerned for his health and well-being. A word of caution: Anyone interested in dipping into this series would be very well-advised to start with the first book, The Sins of the Fathers. Trust me when I say that you want to be on this ride from the very beginning.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Trudi

    The brandy, I told myself. Probably be a good idea to stay away from it. Stick to what you're used to. Stick to bourbon. I went on over to Armstrong's. A little bourbon would take the edge off the brandy rush. A little bourbon would take the edge off almost anything. ~A Stab in the Dark Ah, Matt. Things are getting pretty dark for you my friend. Rock bottom is rushing up to meet you at about 200 miles an hour. It's going to hit like a freight train and I'm afraid you won't even see it coming. Ca The brandy, I told myself. Probably be a good idea to stay away from it. Stick to what you're used to. Stick to bourbon. I went on over to Armstrong's. A little bourbon would take the edge off the brandy rush. A little bourbon would take the edge off almost anything. ~A Stab in the Dark Ah, Matt. Things are getting pretty dark for you my friend. Rock bottom is rushing up to meet you at about 200 miles an hour. It's going to hit like a freight train and I'm afraid you won't even see it coming. Cause we all know 'denial' is not just a river in Egypt. As you may have guessed, what marks this fourth installment of Lawrence Block's Scudder series, isn't the unsolved nine-year-old murder, or Scudder's uncanny ability to solve it with his characteristic dogged style, but his further descent into excessive boozing, blackouts and hangovers. He meets a woman this time that suffers from the same malady as Matt, but she has a name for it -- alcoholic. Matt bristles at this term, because as far as he's concerned he can stop drinking any time he wants. Like any good boozer who ain't ready to jump on that proverbial wagon and stay there, Matt doesn't see himself as having a problem. He sees himself as still in control. I acutely felt Matt's loneliness and guilt in this one. It's a sad book really. Even the crime is a sad one that should never have happened in the first place. Now on to Book 5 - Eight Million Ways to Die. What's in store for you, Matt? How bad is this going to get before it gets better?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kemper

    When you’ve hit a point where you’ve read hundreds of books and age starts to degrade your memory, you sometimes doubt your previous assessments. I’d read most of the Scudder novels anywhere from 10 to 15 years ago, and while I thought they were very good, I’d started to wonder if they were actually as good as I remembered. Having reread the first four, I’m very happy to find that these are actually even better than I originally thought. Matt gets hired by a man whose daughter, Barbara, was suppo When you’ve hit a point where you’ve read hundreds of books and age starts to degrade your memory, you sometimes doubt your previous assessments. I’d read most of the Scudder novels anywhere from 10 to 15 years ago, and while I thought they were very good, I’d started to wonder if they were actually as good as I remembered. Having reread the first four, I’m very happy to find that these are actually even better than I originally thought. Matt gets hired by a man whose daughter, Barbara, was supposedly killed by a serial killer with an icepick nine years earlier. The killer was recently caught but while he’s confessing to the other murders, he denies killing Barbara. The cops aren’t interested in screwing up the gift of getting multiple homicides cleared off the books so they won’t bother looking into it, but one of the detectives has steered the father to Matt, who briefly worked the murder when he was still a cop. Matt doubts he can turn anything up, but agrees to look into it. As with the other Matt Scudder books, the mystery and resolution are intriguing enough, but what really sets these books apart is the character arc of Scudder himself. Block cleverly never gave us much direct introspection from Matt despite being written in the first person. At first glance, it seems like many things don’t seem to effect him at all, but over the course of the series, particularly these early books, you realize that Matt is a guy consumed with guilt and self hatred. Matt's a very decent guy, but he freely admits to taking money as a cop and a large part of his unlicensed PI business comes from paying kickbacks to the police. He left the cops after accidentally shooting and killing a young girl while breaking up a robbery and subsequently walked out on his wife and kids to start living in a cheap hotel room. This book is yet another stage in Matt’s relationship to the booze where he gets dangerously drunk without realizing it, and it’s the first time that he even starts to consider the idea that he may be an alcoholic, even if he quickly denies it. This is another short but powerful book that again shows that Block can deliver more story and create more heartbreaking characters in 180 pages than most writers can in a lifetime.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    These Matthew Scudder books aren't action-packed, sometimes they're even slow, but boy howdy, do I ever enjoy them! I like the picture you get of New York City in the '70s (At least with these first few books in the series. I'm not sure about the rest, because I haven't read them). I love Scudder's character. He's not in it for the money. Admirable. I like the light mystery involved in each book. Lawrence Block keeps you guessing! All of these things and probably a few more I'm forgetting right n These Matthew Scudder books aren't action-packed, sometimes they're even slow, but boy howdy, do I ever enjoy them! I like the picture you get of New York City in the '70s (At least with these first few books in the series. I'm not sure about the rest, because I haven't read them). I love Scudder's character. He's not in it for the money. Admirable. I like the light mystery involved in each book. Lawrence Block keeps you guessing! All of these things and probably a few more I'm forgetting right now just jive really well with my reading tastes! Usually with these books there's a certain amount of psychology, as in the psychology of the killer. However, in A Stab in the Dark we get even more of a look at "why?". Psycho killers and their copycats are given a decent an examination here. It's not super deep. These Scudder books are fairly short after all. However, it is about as long as you'd want it to be in a crime fiction pleasure read. So, book #4 in the series was a success and I'll definitely be moving on to #5!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    I was in kind of a cranky mood when I began this installment of my adventures with Matthew Scudder- in one of those nitpicky modes where anything that can annoy you will do so. I even got so far as starting on a bit of a tirade regarding the use of an icepick as a murder weapon (see below). But, this is what makes Lawrence Block such a stud of an author- if I had just been patient, I would have saved myself from my own ramblings re. the dangerous weapon of choice, as Scudder, too, takes issue wi I was in kind of a cranky mood when I began this installment of my adventures with Matthew Scudder- in one of those nitpicky modes where anything that can annoy you will do so. I even got so far as starting on a bit of a tirade regarding the use of an icepick as a murder weapon (see below). But, this is what makes Lawrence Block such a stud of an author- if I had just been patient, I would have saved myself from my own ramblings re. the dangerous weapon of choice, as Scudder, too, takes issue with the instrument of choice. This isn’t much in the way of a review, but, for me, it says quite a lot when I can enjoy a story in spite of myself. Block’s answers to the question of “who dunnit?” are never so simple that they feel predictable, and this time was no exception. Also, in case anyone else isn’t up on their street knife knowledge, here are my animated findings as per gravity and/or butterfly knives: A Murderous Query: I have a lot of questions vis-à-vis the (literary) use of icepicks as murder weapons. What kind of icepicks are we talking about? Like the really long needle kind? I’ve gone ice climbing (though not very well) and I get where an ice axe would make a useful murder weapon (though difficult to conceal), and I’ve used an ice chipper, which would be a pretty terrible murder weapon since you’d have to contend with several dermal layers (hard to scrape someone to death). So, are we just talking the long needley kind that look like awls? Does one use a hammer as a driver, because I feel like it’d be hard to get the necessary momentum going for a really good puncture wound just by hanging on to that wooden grip? You might just inadvertently perform a transorbital lobotomy which, while destructive, might not suit your needs. Why not just use a meat thermometer? If there are any icepick assassins out there, please respond at your nearest convenience as this has been troubling me for some time.

  8. 5 out of 5

    carol.

    A lightweight read at only 156 pages. Good suspense and interesting mystery. In this one, a serial killer is caught by police. The catch? He only confesses to seven of the murders and has an airtight alibi for the eighth. The father of the eighth victim realizes he needs a new kind of closure and hires Scudder to investigate. He pursues it like a terrier; hanging on, chasing down leads from nine years ago, drinking his way through the city. After he interviews the remarried husband and his new wi A lightweight read at only 156 pages. Good suspense and interesting mystery. In this one, a serial killer is caught by police. The catch? He only confesses to seven of the murders and has an airtight alibi for the eighth. The father of the eighth victim realizes he needs a new kind of closure and hires Scudder to investigate. He pursues it like a terrier; hanging on, chasing down leads from nine years ago, drinking his way through the city. After he interviews the remarried husband and his new wife, he looks up the owner of the daycare center where the victim worked. She's now a sculptor in the Village and struggling with alcohol as well. Personal collides with professional. Eventually, the client makes a feeble effort to call Scudder off, but like the terrier down the rat hole, he won't let up. This one is notable for Scudder's drinking picking up pace, clearly speeding him along to rock bottom. Slowly, it dawned on me as I read that Scudder's drinking was out of control. There's a few moments when he realizes it and pulls back, but never for long. It's interesting the way Block writes it; the murders capture the reader's attention while Scudder slowly slides off the bar stool in the background. Definitely a likeable read, with a surprise ending to the murder that I'm not entirely sure was believable.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Toby

    Days off, laying on the sofa reading. Sweet dreams are made of these. Add a drunken PI on a self destructive life path and the dream turns slightly darker. Hooray for Lawrence Block! Matt Scudder, unlicensed PI returns for his fourth instalment, this time doing a favour for a bereaved father who has recently discovered that his dead daughter is the only "victim" of a captured serial killer that he couldn't possibly have murdered. Once more treading the unsafe streets of New York, bourbon and coff Days off, laying on the sofa reading. Sweet dreams are made of these. Add a drunken PI on a self destructive life path and the dream turns slightly darker. Hooray for Lawrence Block! Matt Scudder, unlicensed PI returns for his fourth instalment, this time doing a favour for a bereaved father who has recently discovered that his dead daughter is the only "victim" of a captured serial killer that he couldn't possibly have murdered. Once more treading the unsafe streets of New York, bourbon and coffee constantly sustaining his alcoholism, Scudder won't rest until he has found justice for a slain maiden. The thing with Scudder is that his alcoholism and self hatred has become an obvious character trait by now BUT can his penchant for cases involving dead young women (three from three early Scudder novels) also be considered one? It seems like Horatio Caine could be given a run for his money in this game. Plotwise this is probably the entry with the most "procedural" work from the protagonist, most notable being the time spent pumping dimes in to payphones, adding to his usual haphazard approach towards following lines of investigation. You may think that he's getting nowhere but somehow all his questions and all his footwork are enough to force the villain of the piece in to an error and thus the case gets solved seemingly out of the blue. I've been reading the Martin Beck series of detective novels alongside these Scudder's and it seems to me that the Swedes get a lot of credit for planning a complete 10 book series in advance - criticising society, the police force etc - but the obvious development of Matt Scudder in these books from Lawrence Block and their unflinching portrait of New York (as a microcosm for America) as a cesspit of decaying morals (including the police department) required just as much forethought and planning and is equally as impressive if not more so.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    In The Midst of Death, finally, a former colleague asks him how he is doing, asks him about drinking, suggests he doesn't have to “climb back inside the bottle” when things go south. And they do, and he does. In this book, a woman named Janice Corwin he interviews for the case calls him out, while they are drinking: “You know what we are, Matthew? We’re both a couple of drunks,” and he goes so far at this point to admit he is “in the drinking life.” If this were a book simply about crime, well, In The Midst of Death, finally, a former colleague asks him how he is doing, asks him about drinking, suggests he doesn't have to “climb back inside the bottle” when things go south. And they do, and he does. In this book, a woman named Janice Corwin he interviews for the case calls him out, while they are drinking: “You know what we are, Matthew? We’re both a couple of drunks,” and he goes so far at this point to admit he is “in the drinking life.” If this were a book simply about crime, well, the alcoholism (not just boozing/hangover detective clichés) in these four books would be just a good background trait. But in these books, and in this book in particular, the story is marked by the ex-cop (unlicensed) detective Matthew Scudder’s steady, marked descent into the bottle, inch by inch. Struggles--decisions not to drink in the morning, or when offered while working--then binges, then retreats. . . with less church, more bars, less coffee, more bourbon. The balance tips to decline. And as he says, I am still able to do my work, so I think I’m pretty much okay. Is my hand shaking? Okay, a little, but it’s not too bad. But a kid asks him for a match after he leaves a bar and Scudder thinks he is being tailed and the guy intends to scare him off the case, so Scudder beats him up, takes his knife and money. The next day Scudder realizes he has blacked out some of the evening before beating up the kid and he worries: Wait, maybe he just really did want a match, am I losing it?! We do think he is losing it. A Stab in the Dark is a superb novel about booze addiction which has a kind of typical detective novel title that fits the crime, but in this terrific book, the crime serves to help us understand the character, linking that crime to Scudder’s own need to expiate his own guilt. Nine years ago, Scudder was given a commendation for killing one punk and paralyzing another who had robbed and murdered a guy, but in the process of shooting these two kids he accidentally kills a nine year old girl and hereafter, his life falls apart. Also nine years ago Scudder was working on a serial murder case with two other cops, wherein a guy, the Ice Pick Prowler, had killed 7 women. 8 had actually been killed, but the convicted murderer adamantly denied having killed the 8th woman, Barbara Ettinger. Nine years later, Barbara’s father hires Scudder to find his daughter’s killer because he—like Scudder—needs closure. Why Scudder? Because, as Ettinger points out to him, Scudder “is someone who cares about the truth.” In the process of doing the investigation Scudder talks to two people who—like him—stopped living their lives over a terrible crime. For these two people, it happens to be this very case. Janice was a neighbor of Barbra Ettinger and pre-school teacher and things kind of just fell apart for Janice when her friend Barbara died. The same thing happens to one of Scudder’s former colleagues on the case; the serial killer just made him realize he couldn’t do this kind of work anymore. These two people help Scudder (begin to) see that he has given up as they have. He must face this truth, and he is not quite ready to, but it is both of them that lead him closer and closer to his truth. I was surprised and moved by the ending as it pertains to Scudder and both of these people. Nine years—can Scudder, can Scudder’s ex-colleague, can Janice—face the truth and recover their lives? This book, a Stab in the Dark, features Dostoevsky-level guilt and alcoholism and complicated relationships as Scudder drinks with the (also) drunk Janice. It—and the next one, Eight Million Ways to Die--belongs on the shelf with every great novel of the destruction of lives through booze, including the short stories of Raymond Carver and Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    This is by far, my favorite of the Scudder books at this point. Once again, I am presented with the 5 star problem. With the other 3 getting the same rating, how do I differentiate between the installments? I don't have an answer for that. Stop making me feel bad! I really wanted to open this review with the line, "My favorite part was when Scudder drinks coffee with bourbon" (get it? 'cause that's like 90% of the novel) but I thought better of it. Scudder's boozing is totally out of control in A This is by far, my favorite of the Scudder books at this point. Once again, I am presented with the 5 star problem. With the other 3 getting the same rating, how do I differentiate between the installments? I don't have an answer for that. Stop making me feel bad! I really wanted to open this review with the line, "My favorite part was when Scudder drinks coffee with bourbon" (get it? 'cause that's like 90% of the novel) but I thought better of it. Scudder's boozing is totally out of control in A Stab In The Dark. He recognizes that he has a problem but he's under the impression that he can stop at any point. It appears that he's in denial but I guess I'll find that out shortly as it looks like it's starting to replace water as his main source of hydration - someone can only do that for so long. Considering that Scudder is given a case that's 9 years old with the victim being "buried so goddamn deep", Block shows the true range of Scudder's talent. Block has true writing chops. The fact that he can have Scudder solve a crime of that age under those circumstances AND make it seem plausible is pretty damn impressive. About halfway through, I thought I had it all figured out but once again, Block turned the tables and shocked me. Don't even get me started on another big reveal at the end which I also didn't clue in on (but I'd be shocked to know of anyone who did). Once again, I'll finish with how excited I am to continue this series. Picked up 8 Million Ways to Die last night and started it right away. I'll be a very sad Brandon when I finish this series.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    *3.5 Stars* It's going to get harder and harder writing fresh reviews for these Lawrence Block novels, that don't sound terribly repetitive! Once again he has written a solid piece of detective mystery fiction in this latest installment in his Matthew Scudder series, about an ex-cop who lives a lonely life in a hotel room in Manhattan and does "favors" for people as an unlicensed private investigator. In this novel, Scudder takes on a nine-year old cold case after a serial killer is finally caugh *3.5 Stars* It's going to get harder and harder writing fresh reviews for these Lawrence Block novels, that don't sound terribly repetitive! Once again he has written a solid piece of detective mystery fiction in this latest installment in his Matthew Scudder series, about an ex-cop who lives a lonely life in a hotel room in Manhattan and does "favors" for people as an unlicensed private investigator. In this novel, Scudder takes on a nine-year old cold case after a serial killer is finally caught, and confesses to all of his suspected killings except for one. Now that dead girl's father can't rest until he finds out the truth behind her murder, which is now nearly a decade old. I'm four novels into the Scudder series and I've yet to be disappointed. It has another compelling mystery, layers of Matt's character continues to be laid, and the writing continues to be solid. It's impressive how consistent Block has been so far. I love how throughout the series you start to slowly realize, along with Matthew himself, how serious his drinking problem really is, although he continues to deny it. If this series gets even better than this, Lawrence Block might become one of my favorites!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Dickison

    The first 158 pages of this 180 page easy to read book was fantastic: tough, gritty, relentless. But then came the last 22 pages which came close to ruining the whole book. The first 158 pages deserves a 5-star rating, the last 22 pages just suck. Block's editor let him down on this one. He (or she) should have given the manuscript back to him with instructions to fix the ending. Block is a good writer and Scudder in a classic down-on-his luck detective with ethics, but I don't know why Block co The first 158 pages of this 180 page easy to read book was fantastic: tough, gritty, relentless. But then came the last 22 pages which came close to ruining the whole book. The first 158 pages deserves a 5-star rating, the last 22 pages just suck. Block's editor let him down on this one. He (or she) should have given the manuscript back to him with instructions to fix the ending. Block is a good writer and Scudder in a classic down-on-his luck detective with ethics, but I don't know why Block couldn't see that this was a nothing ending.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    Quite a short Scudder story which really doesn't pickup a sense of tension and get moving until late in the game. The story follows the typical formula. Scudder does the mundane investigative work of tracking down leads that mostly prove worthless. And even more than usual, as the case is years cold. Then, after pounding miles of pavement, beating on doors and visiting way too many bars, enough clues somehow manage to seep into his subconscious to form something concrete. As always, drinking and Quite a short Scudder story which really doesn't pickup a sense of tension and get moving until late in the game. The story follows the typical formula. Scudder does the mundane investigative work of tracking down leads that mostly prove worthless. And even more than usual, as the case is years cold. Then, after pounding miles of pavement, beating on doors and visiting way too many bars, enough clues somehow manage to seep into his subconscious to form something concrete. As always, drinking and loneliness follow Scudder like a hungry puppy, and the story is littered with failed marriages, broken families, random acts of violence, neighborhoods in decay and a generally depressing sense of the impermanence of life.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mohammed

    This book is my fav Scudder so far and not because of the plot,mystery he has to detect this time. It was the atmosphere,Scudder himself running around in NYC and making the setting coming alive so well. Scudder struggling with his alcoholism,his life in general is interesting as always. The case was interesting,not too flashy,convulted plot twists like there is too often in PI stories. I like it was mostly instinct,legwork much more realistic than what you usually see in the subgenre. After this This book is my fav Scudder so far and not because of the plot,mystery he has to detect this time. It was the atmosphere,Scudder himself running around in NYC and making the setting coming alive so well. Scudder struggling with his alcoholism,his life in general is interesting as always. The case was interesting,not too flashy,convulted plot twists like there is too often in PI stories. I like it was mostly instinct,legwork much more realistic than what you usually see in the subgenre. After this novel Block has risen many levels in my eyes as a writer of PI crime,a writer of great characters,human stories. The cover blurb comparing him to Hammett stories isnt hyperbole. I havent read PI stories of this quality outside Hammett's famous stories.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tom S

    Nobody better than Block and the Matthew Scudder series.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cathy DuPont

    Forever Questions Answered About New York City Boroughs From the book... SoHo is from South of Houston (street location) Tribeca is from Triangle Below Canal *********** Matthew Scudder is such a tortured anguished, unlicensed P.I. I hate that overused word for these protagonist and hate that word protagonist, too. Let's say Scudder has some definite daytime and night-time mares (Cockney slang, folks, easy to figure out.) Those mares walk with him every waking and sleeping moment for this ex-cop who r Forever Questions Answered About New York City Boroughs From the book... SoHo is from South of Houston (street location) Tribeca is from Triangle Below Canal *********** Matthew Scudder is such a tortured anguished, unlicensed P.I. I hate that overused word for these protagonist and hate that word protagonist, too. Let's say Scudder has some definite daytime and night-time mares (Cockney slang, folks, easy to figure out.) Those mares walk with him every waking and sleeping moment for this ex-cop who resigned the NYPD due to a stray bullet which killed an innocent bystander; a little girl, no less. Such a great mystery with twists and turns (trite comment, too) which kept me wondering 'who dunnit' until the end. Was thinking earlier, I'm not good on puzzles, chess, a multitude of games so never should expect to figure out the 'who dunnit' of any mystery. Surprising if I do. Anyway, reading Scudder in order and this is number four for me and a cut above the last one, I think. Block's Scudder is a great guy, character, flawed (another overused word) imperfect, knowingly imperfect man. But how can the reader not love and admire him? Block's writing is the best and his use of one-liners, such as "Any port in the storm.", referring to a sleazy bar where he can get a drink, endears him to me even more. Speaking of the same bar he says "I guess I didn't look as though I belonged there, and I hope to God I never do." Block writes like he's talking to me and I just love that. Sorry that you had to endure my rambling about trite terms I hate. Ok, I'm dropping it, got it off my chest, letting it go, as they say. Matthew Scudder is a must for mystery lovers and such an enjoyable read, always. Sad day when I finish the series.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    I enjoyed this a lot. A quick read and with a surprisingly amount of character work along with a pretty good mystery.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Truman32

    A Stab in the Dark, the fourth entry in Lawrence Block’s fantastic Matthew Scudder detective series, is another strong (and bleak) tale. The Icepick Prowler has been apprehended, and now finally closure can come to the families and friends of the eight women horrifically murdered by this fiend. Well, make that seven of the families. This maniac with an affinity for skewering young women throughout the Five Boroughs with an apparatus intended only for breaking up ice to chill our refreshing bever A Stab in the Dark, the fourth entry in Lawrence Block’s fantastic Matthew Scudder detective series, is another strong (and bleak) tale. The Icepick Prowler has been apprehended, and now finally closure can come to the families and friends of the eight women horrifically murdered by this fiend. Well, make that seven of the families. This maniac with an affinity for skewering young women throughout the Five Boroughs with an apparatus intended only for breaking up ice to chill our refreshing beverages, has denied responsibility for the slaying of the sixth victim, Barbara Ettinger. What’s more, he has an ironclad alibi to this crime. That means there is another, unsuspected killer still walking around out there. Barbara’s grieving father turns to alcoholic ex-cop/ sometimes P.I. Matthew Scudder to find out just who it could be. The hardcover edition of this novel I checked out of the library was peculiar in a number of ways. Firstly: there was no barcode to scan anywhere on the book. Apparently in 1981 not all books (did any?) had these codes. I cannot for the life of me fathom how this book was rung through the register—was the ISBN number manually typed in by the cashier? Did they just ring out a general item at the $10.95 (!!!) price? Hmm. Secondly: the photo of crime writer Lawrence Block on the back jacket shows a serious faced young man with curly black hair hidden beneath a black leather cowboy hat wearing a denim jacket. Block is generally recognized as a master of noir books taking place in big cities such as NYC—yet it seems even he was not immune to the Urban Cowboy mania running rampant over the country at that time. Did he ride mechanical bulls and line dance too? And finally the unusual level of tripe on the front jacket describing the contents of this story is really quit appalling. Here is a bit of the blurb by an unreliable editor who apparently had no idea about this story or this character: “Investigator Matthew Scudder, Lawrence Block’s relentless and charismatic plainclothesman extraordinaire, returns… Block’s detective (is) at his most vulnerable and most resourceful, on an assignment that challenges—and finally redeems—not only his superior abilities, but his belief in them and himself in the process.” Scudder is a desolate alcoholic, living in the gutter because he can’t live with the guilt of his actions, which caused the death of a young child. Well, this story is great. Block is a writer you can depend to bring you an exciting and moving tale full of vivid and realistic characters. I am now reading this series in order and I believe it is very important to do so. While the mysteries do not carry over from one book to another, the slow downward development of Matthew Scudder does change and the reader is able to understand and see these changes as the series progresses. Fissures have begun to appear on Scudder’s tough guy façade. He’s beginning to experience deeper feelings about the child, Estrillita Rivera, which he accidently killed while shooting at the perpetrators of a hold-up. He is drinking more and acting out in errant ways. It is fascinating seeing the care and detail Block has put into his main character as he spirals ever downward. The Matthew Scudder series as a whole and A Stab in the Dark in particular is dark, smart, and story driven in a genre that recently seems all too often to replace the intricacies of sharp writing with stale action scenes and tired tough talk. Not to sound too much like an old man confused by current-day fashions, the misspent time of the youth (wake-up, it’s noon!), and new music (what the hell is a Fetty Wap, anyway?) but they don’t make books like this anymore. And that is shame.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Aditya

    The best one in the series so far finds Scudder trying to solve a 9 year old murder that was mistakenly attributed to a serial killer. The plot is smart without being convoluted, a coincidence solves it in the end but it is integrated in the story in a manner that feels organic. The mysteries always make Scudder look smart for solving them but they mainly highlight his perseverance and pragmatism. The only minor con is this being the third time in four entries that Scudder gets the killer to do s The best one in the series so far finds Scudder trying to solve a 9 year old murder that was mistakenly attributed to a serial killer. The plot is smart without being convoluted, a coincidence solves it in the end but it is integrated in the story in a manner that feels organic. The mysteries always make Scudder look smart for solving them but they mainly highlight his perseverance and pragmatism. The only minor con is this being the third time in four entries that Scudder gets the killer to do something as drastic as confessing even though all he has is a very sound theory and no admissible proof. The writing does sell the situation and it isn't much of an issue. The writing is stellar in patches and solid consistently, being specially effective at setting a mood. Scudder's bourbon induced haze clears to show glimpses of irreparable loss while his descent into alcoholism happens with a wistful inevitability. The book makes me want to grab a bottle and settle in (everything makes me think of that but this book just heightens the feeling). The series is good for binge reading as the plots are distinctive enough to spare the reader any sense of deja vu and the character development happens throughout the course of the series. It is more accessible than a lot of other great mystery/crime series as it is pretty low on violence. A Stab in the Dark pretty much sums up what makes Block one of the most loved prolific authors around. Accessible, Perfect to Binge, A great protagonist. Rating - 4/5.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ctgt

    My least favorite of the Scudder books so far. My enjoyment of this series comes from Scudder dealing with all his personal issues not from the cases he runs. Not that the cases are bad, that's just not what thrills me. This book had a couple of those moments, talking with another cop who left the force, discussing drinking habits with a new girlfriend, a phone conversation with his ex-wife but not enough for me. Block does a good job of portraying the mundane aspects of investigating but that's My least favorite of the Scudder books so far. My enjoyment of this series comes from Scudder dealing with all his personal issues not from the cases he runs. Not that the cases are bad, that's just not what thrills me. This book had a couple of those moments, talking with another cop who left the force, discussing drinking habits with a new girlfriend, a phone conversation with his ex-wife but not enough for me. Block does a good job of portraying the mundane aspects of investigating but that's not what I'm looking for in a Scudder book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Glad to get to the end of the book. I'm not much of a fan of alcoholic former cop detectives. Don't think I will be reading another Scudder book. Did remind of the days when you needed to find a pay phone and a telephone book in order to call anybody! 2 Stars Glad to get to the end of the book. I'm not much of a fan of alcoholic former cop detectives. Don't think I will be reading another Scudder book. Did remind of the days when you needed to find a pay phone and a telephone book in order to call anybody! 2 Stars

  23. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    What a great series! Ex-cop and unlicensed PI Matt Scudder is a brilliant flawed hero. My New Year's resolution for 2015 is to read more Lawrence Block books! What a great series! Ex-cop and unlicensed PI Matt Scudder is a brilliant flawed hero. My New Year's resolution for 2015 is to read more Lawrence Block books!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Love Matthew Scudder. Interesting story

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Tortured soul Scudder tries to help a businessman whose only daughter was killed by a serial ice pick wielder. The only problem - she wasn't. Tortured soul Scudder tries to help a businessman whose only daughter was killed by a serial ice pick wielder. The only problem - she wasn't.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Col

    Synopsis/blurb.... Louis Pinell, the recently apprehended "Icepick Prowler," freely admits to having slain seven young women nine years ago -- but be swears it was a copycat who killed Barbara Ettinger Matthew Scudder believes him. ... In this 4th Matthew Scudder book, Scudder is asked to look into the murder of Charles London’s daughter, Barbara. At the time she was believed to have been a victim of the “Icepick” serial killer who has been recently arrested. Pinell, the killer has an alibi for wh Synopsis/blurb.... Louis Pinell, the recently apprehended "Icepick Prowler," freely admits to having slain seven young women nine years ago -- but be swears it was a copycat who killed Barbara Ettinger Matthew Scudder believes him. ... In this 4th Matthew Scudder book, Scudder is asked to look into the murder of Charles London’s daughter, Barbara. At the time she was believed to have been a victim of the “Icepick” serial killer who has been recently arrested. Pinell, the killer has an alibi for when Barbara was slain and London wants Scudder to make some enquiries because the police aren’t particularly interested. Who was responsible for Ettinger’s death and why? Scudder’s enquiries lead him back to Ettinger’s husband at the time, who may or may not having been cheating on Barbara and could ostensibly have been responsible for the murder. Digging deeper and speaking with the original officers who were part of the original enquiry, as well as Barbara’s sister and neighbours; Matthew still feels the trail has gone too cold and the task is fruitless. Scudder’s involvement also brings him into contact with the victim’s employer at the time of her death, Janice Corwin. Sensing a kindred spirit, with a similar fondness for alcohol, they become involved. After upsetting someone with his questions and the consequent re-opening of old wounds, London tries to yank Scudder off the case. As Scudder hasn’t actually been hired he refuses and continues to dig until he finds the answer. I enjoyed the continuation of Block’s series and Scudder’s continued descent deeper and deeper into the bottle. There is an acknowledgement from him of issues with alcohol, brought home to him, when Jan breaks off their fledgling relationship. How he addresses these difficulties, I’m hoping is explored in book 5 of the series which I will be reading next month. This was another enjoyable and solid book from Block. I would definitely recommend this series to anyone who has enjoys crime fiction and watching the evolution and development of a main character. 4 from 5 I bought my copy second-hand years ago, source forgotten. https://col2910.blogspot.co.uk/2013/0...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mithun Prasad

    I had plan to read at least three books from other authors before I go back to Lawrence Block. But like Matt Scudder's obsession with bourbon, I am obsessed to Lawrence Blocks' books. And the sight of the unread Lawrence Block books occupied in my modest library is just irresistible. A serial killer tabloided as Icepick prowler who picks eyes of innocent random women after he stabs them to death, gets caught by utter fluke and indicted presumably for eight murders.He confesses to seven of those I had plan to read at least three books from other authors before I go back to Lawrence Block. But like Matt Scudder's obsession with bourbon, I am obsessed to Lawrence Blocks' books. And the sight of the unread Lawrence Block books occupied in my modest library is just irresistible. A serial killer tabloided as Icepick prowler who picks eyes of innocent random women after he stabs them to death, gets caught by utter fluke and indicted presumably for eight murders.He confesses to seven of those eight killings, leaving Barbara Ettinger's murder which was presumed for nine years after hear death to be his work, unwraps the whole new possibilities. But police don't see it that way, and are content with the closing of other open homicides and are too inert to work on the nine year old cold case of Barbara. But To Charles V. London, Father of Barbara the denial comes as a whirl wind, disrupting his earlier belief that his daughter's death was not just a inescapable doomed fate, but a planned murder by someone impersonating as the ice-pick prowler, but more significantly someone who is close to her, some one who may be still walking free. The suspicion leads him towards Matt Scudder the unlicensed PI, and hires him to find the guy who killed his daughter. Once again in the heart of the well plotted mystery there is a strong self-condemning protagonist fighting battle with his pschye. Along with the hangover that lingers in his mind after some heavy drinking (which is quite often in this book), the moral dilemmas of right and wrong also tend to drift around in his brain like a bike speeding inside a silodrome and author does a effective job in bringing about the wretchedness of human mind. Stab at the Dark is yet another powerful book form the author and if every book in the series are as consistent as this, then I am in for great reading time in future as I have already have another three books from the author in my shelf waiting to be read

  28. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    8/10 Another solid entry into the Scudder series with the usual case of top notch detective work using grit and determination to find answers long hidden but also the addition/continuation of Matt Scudder's downward spiral with alcohol. Alcohol has been long mentioned in the previous books but here it is taken to a new level, more emphasis on his issues and how it is effecting his judgment. It was a good addition to the book and added more to the character than previous entries. Matt is hired to f 8/10 Another solid entry into the Scudder series with the usual case of top notch detective work using grit and determination to find answers long hidden but also the addition/continuation of Matt Scudder's downward spiral with alcohol. Alcohol has been long mentioned in the previous books but here it is taken to a new level, more emphasis on his issues and how it is effecting his judgment. It was a good addition to the book and added more to the character than previous entries. Matt is hired to find the killer of a mans daughter who was long assumed part of a serial killers spree but has been revealed that's not the case as the serial killer was incarcerated at the time. The solid police work leads him to a number of people related to the case, one of which he becomes more "friendly" with. This is the first time I've seen Matt get hooked by someone and I enjoyed that additional plot line and how it was worked in with the aforementioned alcohol. I listened to this on audiobook and was slightly annoyed that 4 books in they decided to change the narrator. This irks more because it's read from the first person perspective and took a while not to hear the other narrator in my head throughout. After a while it was all good and I enjoyed the narrator but I believe it's someone else in the next book which is going to annoy me again! This is a great story and well worth reading, the series is getting its claws into me now and I look forward to picking them up. For me this is probably the best in the series to date with a plot resolution I didn't see coming and more fleshing out of the main character. Looking forward to picking up the next one now. If you like this try: "The Concrete Blonde" by Michael Connolly

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    As always, Block has produced a reliable, well-written mystery with wisdom and insight. Scudder's drinking always bothers me, but that's the point, and I know there's a trajectory, having read the novels in no reasonable order. Block is really good. As always, Block has produced a reliable, well-written mystery with wisdom and insight. Scudder's drinking always bothers me, but that's the point, and I know there's a trajectory, having read the novels in no reasonable order. Block is really good.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

    I think this my favorite Lawrence Block novel to date. Great stuff!

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