The Pequod Review:
Eight Million Ways to Die is the fifth book in Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder PI series. In it, Scudder is first hired by a prostitute to rescue her from certain professional obligations; when she is murdered in a hotel room, Scudder is hired to investigate her death. Matt Scudder at this point in the series has become an even more interesting character — principled and determined, but yet damaged and flawed. And Block’s descriptions of his attempts to stay sober are sharp and well-drawn:
A block further downtown I realized something. I'd been controlling my drinking for days now, and before that I'd been off the sauce entirely for over a week, and that proved something. Hell, if I could limit myself to two drinks a day, that was fairly strong evidence that I didn't need to limit myself to two drinks a day. I had my problems with alcohol in the past, I couldn't very well deny it, but evidently I had outgrown that stage in my life. So, although I certainly didn't need another drink, I could just as certainly have one if I wanted one. And I did want one, as a matter of fact, so why not have it?
Lawrence Block isn’t the flashiest writer — and sometimes his prose is a little bland — but he writes solid narratives, very good scenes (set in a gritty and violent New York City), and his best stories build to the point that they culminate in real moments of insight. My favorite book in the Scudder series remains When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (1986), but Eight Million Ways to Die is another career high point. (The book was adapted for a 1986 film directed by Hal Ashby, with a script written by Oliver Stone.)