Hope to Die, by Lawrence Block

This is some way from being the first in a series of books about a ex-cop, ex-alcoholic PI called Matt Scudder: in this story he gets involved with the apparently open-and-shut case of a burglary/homicide where the two criminals argued after running off with the loot, and both ended up dead. But while the cops are initially satisfied that there are no loose ends, Scudder, who's called in by the daughter of the murdered couple who came across the burglars, thinks that there may have been a third person involved, and determines to get to the bottom of things.

I had high hopes of this one after reading a recommendation somewhere, and the cover art led me to expect a noir-ish Chandler type book. But the story is set in the early 21st century and has a reasonably contemporary feel to it, and was distinctly average. It turns out that the third man is some sort of psycho serial murderer, and not a particularly convincing or interesting one.

The narrative alternates between Scudder in the first person, and the criminal in the third person, and I this didn't work very well, mostly because the killer wasn't particularly interesting or convincing. I think it would have been a better book if it had just been written from the point of view of Scudder, working through clues etc.. Plus, monsters are always more frightening when you don't know much about them. As it was, I found myself groaning inwardly whenever a chapter started and it turned out to be one of the killer's.

There was also a fair amount of stuff about Scudder's private life - both his battle with alcoholism and the problems he has with his sons following the death and funeral of his ex-wife, where they all get together. Didn't really add anything. Perhaps if I'd read the preceding books in the series it would have been more interesting. But from reading just this one I have to say I can't say that it stands out at all.

I have another Block book on order from the library, so I'll read that in the hope that this one was a poor one to start with.

Completed : 18-Apr-2006 (audiobook)

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