When the Sacred Ginmill Closes

When the Sacred Ginmill Closes



The Pequod Review:

Matthew Scudder is once again in fine form in When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, the sixth book in Lawrence Block’s eponymous crime series. The story is set in New York City, and is told from Scudder’s perspective as he recounts a series of PI assignments he took on ten years earlier (in the mid-1970s). The narrative is an exhilarating rush as it bounces from scene to scene, with Scudder in constant motion across the lively Manhattan neighborhoods. But what makes this novel one of Block’s best is the impressive collection of secondary characters — Tommy Tillary (a barroom acquaintance whose wife is murdered), Tim Pat Morrissey (the owner of an after-hours club on the West Side of Manhattan) and especially Skip Devoe (a drinking buddy of Scudder’s who has incriminating documents stolen from him). And the book concludes with the now-sober Scudder looking back nostalgically:

So when I look ten years into the past I can say that I would very likely have handled things differently now, but everything is different now. Everything. All changed, changed utterly. I live in the same hotel, I walk the same streets, I go to a fight or a ball game the same as ever, but ten years ago I was always drinking and now I don’t drink at all. I don’t regret a single one of the drinks I took, and I hope to God I never take another.

Because, you see, is the less-traveled road on which I find myself these days, and it has made all the difference. Oh, yes. All the difference.

This is modern American crime writing at its finest.