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Everybody Dies (1999)

Everybody Dies (1999)

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4.07 of 5 Votes: 5
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0380725355 (ISBN13: 9780380725359)

About book Everybody Dies (1999)

When, in my post on the previous entry in Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder series, I wrote that it marked a return to form, I was expecting the remaining novels to be solid and mostly unadventurous, with the series settling into a comfortable groove that it would run along in until it eventually came to an end. In consequence, I was more than just a bit surprised to find out that this late in the series there would still be a novel that holds its place besides works like Eight Million Ways to Die or When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes.Maybe part of what makes it stand out is that Everybody Dies is not really a Scudder novel – while our protagonist is quite present and is doing his usual investigative rounds, he is only marginally involved in events compared to Mick Ballou, his friend and gangster boss, who stands firm in the center of the story. He has always been one of the most interesting recurring characters in the series (second only to Elaine, in my opinion), as well as the most unlikely one to form a friendship with an ex-alcoholic private detective and former policeman like Scudder. And it stands testimony to Block’s considerable skill as a writer that he has consistently managed to avoid letting him slide into cliché (which is all the more impressive when you consider that Ballou is of Irish descent) – Mick Ballou is not a gangster with a heart of gold and is not redeemed by his Irish sentimentality but is an unapologetic criminal with a very matter-of-fact attitude towards doing what (in his eyes) needs to get done and that with a certain regularity tends to be very much on the violent side of things. Everything considered, he is not a very likable person, and it is again very much to Block’s credit that he never tries to make him appear otherwise, but he is also a very fascinating character and in the end is that which makes Scudder’s friendship with him entirely plausible – one can see and feel (Block makes us see and feel) how someone like Scudder can feel a strong attraction towards someone like Ballou who is in almost all regards his complete opposite, except maybe for a shared respect for things many consider old-fashioned.So it is very welcome to see Mick Ballou take the spotlight for this installment of the series, when it turns out that someone is out to get him and he hires Scudder to investigate. Scudder is very reluctant about it and only agrees to take a look at what appears a tangential angle for the sake it excluding that possibility – but of course he gets drawn in farther and farther and ends up getting much more involved than he planned, with some disastrous consequences.This is definitely one of the bleaker volumes in a series that is not exactly uplifting to start with (the blurb on the cover of my edition is not exaggerating when it calls the novel “very, very dark”), but it packs quite an emotional punch and the storytelling is, as always with Lawrence Block, superb – the tension builds slowly but inexorably and the reader’s attention never falters, with the narrative having a relentless grip and never letting go. In the end, it is not so much about who committed the crime but – and this also is a constant in Block’s Scudder novels – about what price everyone – perpetrators as well as victims – will have to pay for it. Overall, this is an outstanding entry in a generally excellent series and made me look forward to the next one.

Private detective Matt Scudder is in late middle age, married, reasonably successful in his career, and several years into sobriety. One might think he would be able to settle back and enjoy life. But his longtime friend, the gangster Mick Ballou, has been targeted by an anonymous killer who has no compunctions about hurting those close to Ballou in order to get to him. And so Scudder becomes another target, driven to fight back and once again make himself an ally of the dangerous Irishman.Death is indeed a theme throughout the novel. Two people close to Scudder are killed, another wounded by stray gunfire, and a fourth reveals that he has had a recent brush with death unrelated to the present danger. And with death seemingly imminent it is only natural for Scudder and Ballou to look back on their lives with a mixture of fondness and regret and wonder what their lasting role has been. Confession, forgiveness and redemption are all examined briefly; it remains for future novels to reveal what effect if any it has had on Mick.The friendship between Scudder, an ex-cop, and Ballou, a lifetime criminal, is one that has puzzled Scudder for many years. In the earlier novels Scudder was hard-drinking, violent and often out of control; operating on the fringe of the law and as often as not letting his instincts overrule traditional concepts of right and wrong. It seems to this reader that Ballou is a kind of kindred spirit, recalling what Scudder had been and representing what he might have evolved into. When Scudder, the solid citizen (well, more or less a solid citizen) sits across the table from Ballou, drinking coffee while Ballou puts away considerable quantities of Irish whiskey, he is staring into his own soul.

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This might be the best mystery novel in the Scudder series, from what I've read thus far. Kind of a slow start, but once Scudder gets drawn into a gang war after one of his best friends from AA gets killed in a case of mistaken identity, the action really intensifies. One of the most violent books in this series, but the ending is very satisfying, hanks to great detective work by Scudder and the instincts of his gangster friend Mick Ballou. Recommended, but not as one of the first books you'd re

Someone has declared war on Mick Ballou and his criminal enterprises and Matthew Scudder is caught in the middle, first having a friend gunned down in front of him and then nearly being killed at Mick's bar. Can Matt figure out who is behind the attacks before anyone else close to him is killed?Wow. After I finished Even the Wicked, I thought Lawrence Block might have been phoning in the rest of them. How wrong I was!The thing that keeps me coming back to the Matthew Scudder books is the fluid nature of Matthew Scudder and his world. The supporting cast are as big of an attraction to me as Scudder himself. Hard Way Ray, Joe Durkin, Danny Boy Bell, Lisa Holtzman, then all make appearances in this one. A couple of them will never make appearances again. That's what made Everybody Dies so powerful. A few long-running cast members end up dead at the hands of a criminal gunning for Mick Ballou. Not even TJ gets out unscathed.I had an idea who the mole was in Mick's crew about halfway through but I didn't figure out who the big baddie was until about a paragraph before Matt. This one had a finale that sticks out as one of my all time favorites in crime fiction, a glorious shit storm of violence. Like Matt said to Elaine near the end "Everybody else is dead."I'd been waiting to read a Matthew Scudder story centering in Mick Ballou for a long time and this one did not disappoint. It's easily in the Scudder top three.
—Dan Schwent

“The most successful war seldom pays for its losses.” –Thomas JeffersonLawrence Block’s fourteenth entry in his long running Matt Scudder series is by far the most tragic. The loss of life within these pages is astounding and there came a time near the end where I thought very few would make it out alive. Hell, if I didn’t know there were more books to follow, I’d have had my doubts about Matt too.Matt’s close friend – and ruthless Irish gangster – Mick Ballou is at war. Someone is picking off members of Mick’s organization and when Scudder is tasked to produce the identity of this murderous maniac, those close to Matt are threatened unless he backs off. Given how little he’s accomplished during his investigation, it feels like a blessing in disguise – he can get off without the guilt associated with disappointing Ballou. Unfortunately for Matt, Mick’s nemesis strikes before Scudder can officially get his hands off the case.What follows is some of the most intense, nerve-wracking storytelling the series has ever produced and I would go so far as to say that Everybody Dies is my favorite of the series up to this point. Everything that makes a great Scudder story lives within this book; late night philosophical rap sessions with Ballou, comedic exchanges with T.J., butting heads with the police and memorable moments with Elaine – but you take all of those elements, add an unseen level of unpredictability and you have a novel that will keep you up at night.Everybody Dies is so violent, so deadly, that I often wondered if Block had taken tips from George R.R. Martin in how to cause his audience grief. However, when you pick up a book titled Everybody Dies, you should know what you’re in for.Also posted @ Every Read Thing.

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