A friend of Matt Scudder's from AA winds up dead and it looks as if someone he named in his eight step is the murderer. Scudder takes the case for a cool grand and begins working the people on the list. Only the killer isn't take things lying down. Will Matt make it to one year sobriety?
You know, every time I read one of Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder books, I feel as if I've entered a metaphorical genital measuring contest with the esteemed Mr Block. I unzip my pants to reveal that I've read the entire Scudder series and a couple hundred other mystery books besides and have a pretty good head for sleuthing and Block takes his out and shames me with 50 years of misdirecting guys like me. Like a lot of the Scudder books, Block hides the killer in plain sight and dares you to figure out the mystery before Matt. Yeah, old Lawrence got me again.
A Drop of the Hard Stuff is a flashback tale akin to When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes. Matt and Mick Ballou are talking late into the night and Matt brings up a case from the early days. Block did a good job with his references, from the double-bladed disposable razor to the mysterious disease afflicting gay men. It was fantastic seeing old supporting cast members like Jan, Jim, and Danny Boy Bell. The case itself was vintage Scudder. Block crafted a nice cast of losers and douche bags for Matt to interact with. Like I said before, I had no idea who the killer was until Matt figured it out. I'd say that's the mark of an exceptional mystery.
Matt's personal life and continued struggle with sobriety were center stage in A Drop of the Hard Stuff, much like they would be for many books to come. Matt Scudder continues to be one of my favorite characters in all of crime fiction.
Any gripes? Yeah, I wasn't that thrilled with the ending. I didn't like how things were resolved between Matt and the killer. Other than that, I don't have a single complaint.
For Scudder fans of old, this is a must read. It lives up to its predecessors and you won't be disappointed.