Seeing as Matt Scudder ages along with his creator, Lawrence Block doesn’t feel there’s much interest in following the activities of a detective in his mid-70s. Rather than write a follow-up to All The Flowers Are Dying, Block backtracks about thirty years, all the way back to Scudder’s first year of sobriety where he finds himself on the trail of a killer.
An old friend of Scudder’s, fellow AA member Jack Ellery, is found murdered. Having no friends or family, Jack’s sponsor hires Matt to look into his death by providing a copy of Jack’s eighth step, a list of individuals Jack has wronged during his life. Jack’s sponsor believes that one of the people on this list may be responsible for Jack’s untimely demise.
Lawrence Block has gone on record stating that with A Drop of the Hard Stuff, he believes he’s written his final Matt Scudder novel, but admittedly, he’s believed that on a few occasions. However, if that’s the case, you can’t blame the guy for wanting to go out on top. A Drop of the Hard Stuff is a tightly paced thriller that kept me guessing right up to the very end. **
Many of Scudder’s supporting cast members make an appearance or two. Danny Boy Bell, Jan and Jim Fader are present but series favorites Elaine and TJ are noticeably absent given that this story takes place prior to their heavy involvement in Scudder’s life. While they were missed, Scudder’s battle with booze plays a huge part in the story taking up all of Scudder’s free time outside of picking up phones and knocking on doors.
I’m sad to see Scudder go but seventeen original novels leave little room for complaining. A Drop of the Hard Stuff is a fine glass of sipping whiskey that goes down smooth.
** I read this novel on my Kindle. As you know, there’s a percentage that shows up in the lower right hand of the screen that indicates how much of the story you’ve read. Well, I had 91% left when the story finished, so the ending caught me off guard. It made sense but it seemed rather abrupt.
The remaining 9% was an excerpt from Block’s then soon-to-be-released Keller novel, Hit Me.