Share for friends:

The Devil Knows You're Dead (1999)

The Devil Knows You're Dead (1999)

Book Info

3.98 of 5 Votes: 4
Your rating
0752827472 (ISBN13: 9780752827476)

About book The Devil Knows You're Dead (1999)

A large part of the appeal of Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder series has always (or at least from about the third novel onwards) been to follow the fate of its protagonist, his trying to survive without a regular job, his trying to come to terms with his past as a police officer, and chiefly his struggle with (and quite often succumbing to) his alcoholism.But this is how it goes – you creat a recurring protagonist for your novels, give him a backstory, and, as no man is an island, some friends, some acquaintances and maybe an enemy or two. Then, likely a few novels into your series now, you have to show how your hero copes with history, how his past influences his present, maybe show he overcomes it. You have to keep track of what his friends and acquaintances are doing, maybe have an old enemy return. And as your hero keeps working on cases, there are new friends, new acquaintances, new enemies, all of which have to kept track of, too, while your hero continues to develop, maybe enters a relationship, wonders whether it might be something serious. You have a fairly long series now, ten, maybe eleven volumes, and as you write your most recent one you suddenly notice how your protagonist’s ongoing private life has so encroached on what was supposed to be the plot of your novel that it is taking up most of the space and the attention.This is what I think happened to the Matthew Scudder series in its eleventh volume The Devil Knows You’re Dead – in all ten novels before this one, the crime plot was always placed firmly centre stage, with Scudder’s private life in the background, enhancing the main plot with depth and emotional resonance. In contrast, The Devil Knows You’re Dead is first and foremost about Matthew Scudder the man and his personal history, and as his job is working as an unlicenced private detective, there is some crime here, but it’s only taking place in the periphery – while you usually have a detective because a crime has been comitted, here you have a crime because the book happens to be about an detective.Such a reversal of emphasis might have been a sure recipe for a boring, uninteresting novel – but Scudder is a fascinating character (and readers who have followed him through the series will have quite an emotional investment in him by now) and Block is an excellent writer who manages to pull this off with apparent effortlessness and keeps us interested^, making us care more about how things between Elaine and Scudder will turn out and what he will do about Jan than in who did or did not kill Glenn Holtzmann.Block’s regard is as unflinching when it is directed on Scudder’s private life as when it is on the more public sphere of crime and punishment – not satisfied with his usual shorcomings – his alcoholism, his befriending a known and ruthless criminal, his dithering in his relationship with Elaine – Scudder in this volume adds infidelity to the list when begins an affair with a crime victim’s widow. Still, the reader (this reader at least) can’t help but like Scudder, for aren’t we all flawed somehow, and we’ve been together with him through so much, one can’t help but hope that he’ll get a grip on himself and do right by Elaine. And of course read the next book in the series, to find out whether he does.

When private detective Matt Scudder meets Glenn Holtzmann on a couples date with his girlfriend Elaine Mardell, he takes an instant and vague dislike to the man. It's puzzling because on the surface Holtzmann is clean-cut and innocuous, employed by a publishing firm, living in a high-rise apartment with his beautiful wife Lisa, and interested in Scudder's work. Then one night in Hell's Kitchen Holtzmann is murdered execution style. The police think they have the killer, a homeless Viet Nam veteran named George Sadecki. But George's brother Tom isn't buying it, and he hires Scudder, whom he knows from AA meetings, to investigate.Gradually Scudder learns that Holtzmann had a secret past, having been a sort of professional snitch. He financed his law degree with IRS reward money after turning in his uncle for keeping two sets of books. His apartment was a reward for reporting on a member of a law firm, his former employer. In the back of Scudder's mind is the suspicion that Holtzmann might have been planning to expose Scudder's friend the gangster Mick Ballou, and that Ballou might have killed him. Then another solution to the mystery reveals itself.Aside from Scudder's bulldog tenacity in the pursuit of the truth and his ongoing battle with alcohol, several other themes occur throughout THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'R DEAD. One is the contrast between rich and poor: the victim and his alleged killer, the habit of the press to refer to the same part of New York as either Clinton or Hell's Kitchen, depending on the slant of the news article, and the contrast between 11th Avenue (the scene of the shooting) by day, when the business is car sales and brake jobs, an by night when the business changes to drug sales and another kind of job. Another theme is temptation: Scudder's surprising infatuation with Lisa Holtzmann despite his obvious affection for Elaine, and TJ's interest in the hooker Julia. Not being what you seem is another theme. Julia is a transsexual saving up for the big operation. Holtzmann, vanilla bland on the surface, made a living out of revealing other people's secrets. Barry, a homeless man who Scudder questions regarding Sadecki, is an unbeatable chess player. Scudder mistrusts his friend Mick and Elaine mistrusts Scudder, both more or less mistakenly.Transition is another theme. Elaine is looking for a new place to live and a new way to spend her savings. Scudder wants to marry Elaine and move in together. TJ is facing new temptations. Jan is looking at the last and biggest transition of all. Holtzmann lived an almost nomadic life, leaving one job and location after turning in his previous employers and coworkers to the Feds. Scudder is saying farewell to a former lover, Jan, while taking up an affair with another. At the end of the novel Jan is dead and Scudder has proposed to Elaine. But he still thinks of Lisa from time to time, remembers her phone number, and thinks about calling her up and inviting himself over."Everybody got a jones," says TJ.

Do You like book The Devil Knows You're Dead (1999)?

The Devil Knows You’re Dead, by Lawrence Block, a-minus, Narrated by Joe Barrett, Produced by Blackstone Audio, downloaded from is one of the earlier Matthew Scudder books and, as it turns out it’s one I read previously. But it was as enjoyable the second time, and I had forgotten who the murderer was, so it worked out fine. In this book, Matt is asked by a man to find out who shot a man to death. His brother is being blamed and held for the murder and he insists that his brother would not have done it. Then the widow of the man who was killed also asks him to look into the case. In the meantime, one of Matt’s ex-girlfriends calls on him because she’s dying of pancreatic cancer and she asks him to help her get a gun so that, if it gets to be too much for her, she can kill herself. This book also starts the beginning of some major changes for Matt and Elaine which we saw carried on in books that came after this one. The book was very good.
—Kathleen Hagen

So, I'm on a Scudder tear, and I think I need a little of a break. I read this installment in a record, slow time, but maybe that has to do with other things as well. Anyway, new things afoot in the Scudderverse... most importantly, I think that Scudder has a photographic memory, which brings up all kinds of potential issues with his alcoholism and past life. There was also one story line that bummed my out, which I won't go into detail, but it appears all will be well. This novel was sort of about the crime that Scudder was solving, but it felt a little more like a build up of the Scudder character more than anything, I still love the series, and will finish it this year, but for some reason, this one felt a little out of joint for the whole Scudderverse. We'll see what the next one brings.

The Devil Knows You're Dead may be the most skillfully crafted book I've ever read—and until the end, I wasn't even sure I was going to like it. The psychological suspense is excruciating. The characters breathe and bleed. And dozens of details that seem like window dressing end up being critical to the tidy resolution of the several subplots. As for the central corpse, Scudder's search for a motive for the murder results in what has to be one of fiction's most interesting red herrings.If you're stuck somewhere around page 200 and afraid of what might happen, please proceed! You'll be glad you did. It would be a shame to miss the end of this book!

download or read online

Read Online

Write Review

(Review will shown on site after approval)

Other books by author Lawrence Block

Other books in series Matthew Scudder

Other books in category Horror