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The Devil Knows You're Dead (Matthew Scudder Series #11)

The Devil Knows You're Dead (Matthew Scudder Series #11)

4.3 3
by Lawrence Block

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A deranged derelict, a crazed Vietnam vet, has been arrested for gunning down successful young lawyer Glenn Holtzmann at a corner phone booth on Eleventh Avenue -- and the suspect's brother wants p.i. Matthew Scudder to prove the madman innocent. But Scudder's curiosity and dedication are leading him to dark, unexplored places in his own heart...and to passions and


A deranged derelict, a crazed Vietnam vet, has been arrested for gunning down successful young lawyer Glenn Holtzmann at a corner phone booth on Eleventh Avenue -- and the suspect's brother wants p.i. Matthew Scudder to prove the madman innocent. But Scudder's curiosity and dedication are leading him to dark, unexplored places in his own heart...and to passions and secrets that could destroy everything be loves.

Editorial Reviews

Chicago Sun-Times
Eminently readable...a moody page-turner.
New York Daily News
Block has never been better.
Wes Lukowsky
There's a new trend afoot in the series mystery. Mickey Spillane, Nero Wolfe, Sherlock Holmes, and their investigating cohorts seldom changed from book to book. Part of their appeal, in fact, was their consistency. Contemporary series authors, however, such as Bill Pronzini, Robert P. Parker, Joseph Hansen, and Lawrence Block, have taken the series character a step further, allowing growth and change to occur to the hard-boiled hero just as they do to ordinary mortals. Block's recovering alcoholic Matt Scudder is a perfect example. Once isolated by guilt, angst, and booze, Scudder was the quintessential loner. Now, as his never-ending recovery continues, his world has begun to expand. He has a true friend in Mick Ballou, a sidekick in street urchin T. J., and a lover in former hooker Elaine. Hired by the brother of a mentally handicapped vet accused of the murder of attorney Glenn Holtzmann, Scudder finds that the victim was both less and more than he appeared to be. Much to his surprise--because he loves Elaine--Scudder becomes involved with Holtzmann's widow. The resolution of the case is a logical surprise that will leave readers contemplating an indifferent universe. Though Scudder's world is as bleak as it's ever been, he's letting a little sun shine through. It's nice to see a friend happy.
Kirkus Reviews
Mysteries of the heart eclipse those of the street in Matt Scudder's quietly compelling new case, which finds the p.i. avoiding the wrenching physical violence of his last few outings (A Walk Among the Tombstones, etc.) but falling prey to all sorts of emotional havoc. The crime on which Block hangs Scudder's latest study in angst is the apparent shooting death of attorney Glenn Holtzmann by deranged homeless vet George Sadecki. Despite strong evidence of Sadecki's guilt, the accused's brother hires Scudder to look into the case—which the unlicensed p.i. does, discovering that Holtzmann, far from being a clean-cut yuppie, was actually a professional rat for various federal agencies and may have been slain by one of his targets. Scudder's gumshoeing is dogged but not very exciting—lots of phone calls and interviews—and serves mostly to put him in contact with old series regulars and one likely new one, a sympathetic transvestite, as well as with Holtzmann's widow, with whom he starts an affair despite his commitment to longtime girlfriend Elaine: The widow proves as addictive as booze and in fact may drive Scudder back to drink, especially if he keeps indulging in moody midnight gabfests with Irish gangster Mick Ballou and brooding over a WW I poem about breaking faith with those who've died. Meanwhile, in an equally introspective subplot, Scudder's old flame Jan Keane is dying of cancer and asks Scudder to get her a suicide-gun, which he does. Will she choose life, however painful, instead of the bullet's oblivion? Will Scudder resist the bottle and widow and do the same? The murder finally resolves through a quirk of fate: Can Scudder command his own fate? Thosewho can take or leave Scudder will probably leave this gathering of shadows: loyalists, though, will hang on every word as Scudder makes his fascinatingly uncertain way through an increasingly uncertain world.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Matthew Scudder Series , #11
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

On the last Thursday in September, Lisa Holtzmann went shopping on Ninth Avenue. She got back to her apartment between three-thirty and four and made coffee. While it dripped through she replaced a burnt-out light bulb with one she'd just bought, put away her groceries, and read the recipe on the back of a box of Goya lentils. She was sitting at the window with a cup of coffee when the phone rang.

It was Glenn, her husband, calling to tell her he wouldn't be home until around six-thirty. It was not unusual for him to work late, and he was very good about letting her know when she could expect him. He'd always been thoughtful in this regard, and his solicitousness had increased in the months since she'd lost the baby.

It was almost seven when he walked in the door, seven-thirty when they sat down to dinner. She'd made a lentil stew, enlivening the recipe on the box with garlic, fresh coriander, and a generous dose of Yucateca hot sauce, and she served it over rice, with a green salad. As they ate they watched the sun go down, watched the sky darken.

Their apartment was in a new high-rise on the southeast corner of Fifty-seventh Street and Tenth Avenue, diagonally across the street from Jimmy Armstrong's saloon. They lived on the twenty-eighth floor with windows looking south and west, and the views were spectacular. You could see the whole West Side from the George Washington Bridge to the Battery, and on across the Hudson and halfway across New Jersey.

They were a handsome couple. He was tall and slender. His dark brown hair was combed back from awell-defined widow's peak, with just the slightest touch of gray at the temples. Dark eyes, dark complexion. Strong features, softened the least bit by a slight weakness at the chin. Good even teeth, a confident smile.

He wore what he always wore to the office, a well-tailored dark suit and a striped tic. Had he taken off the suit jacket before sitting down to dinner? He might have hung it over the back of a chair, or on a doorknob. Or he might have used a hanger; he was careful with his things. I picture him sitting at the table in his shirt-sleeves -- a blue pinpoint Oxford shirt, a buttondown collar -- and tossing his tie over one shoulder, to protect it from food stains. I'd seen him do that once, at a coffee shop called the Morning Star.

She was five-two and slender, with straight dark hair cut modishly short, skin like porcelain, and startling blue eyes. She was thirty-two but looked younger, even as her husband appeared a little older than his thirty-eight years.

I don't know what she was wearing. Jeans, perhaps, turned up at the cuffs, showing a little wear at the knees and in the seat. A sweater, a yellow cotton crewneck, the sleeves pushed up to bare her arms to the elbow. Brown suede slippers on her feet.

But that's just a guess, an exercise of the imagination. I don't know what she was wearing.

Sometime between eight-thirty and nine he said he had to go out. If he had removed his suit jacket earlier, he put it on again now, and added a topcoat. He told her he'd be back within the hour. It was nothing important, he told her. Just something he needed to take care of.

I suppose she did the dishes. Poured another cup of coffee, turned on the television set.

At ten o'clock she started to worry. She told herself not to be silly and spent the next half hour at the window, looking out at their million-dollar view.

Around ten-thirty the doorman called upstairs to tell her that there was a police officer on his way up. She was waiting in the hall when he got off the elevator. He was a tall cleanshaven Irish kid in a blue uniform, and she remembered thinking that he looked just the way cops were supposed to look.

"Please," she said. "What's the matter? What happened?"

He wouldn't say anything until they were inside the apartment, but by then she already knew. The look on his face said it all.

Her husband had been at the corner of Eleventh Avenue and West Fifty-fifth Street. He had evidently been in the process of making a telephone call from a coin-operated public phone at that corner, when someone, presumably attempting to rob him, had fired four bullets at close range, thereby causing his death.

There was more, but that was as much as she could take in. Glenn was dead. She didn't have to hear any more.

The Devil Knows You're Dead. Copyright © by Lawrence Block. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Lawrence Block is one of the most widely recognized names in the mystery genre. He has been named a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America and is a four-time winner of the prestigious Edgar and Shamus Awards, as well as a recipient of prizes in France, Germany, and Japan. He received the Diamond Dagger from the British Crime Writers' Association—only the third American to be given this award. He is a prolific author, having written more than fifty books and numerous short stories, and is a devoted New Yorker and an enthusiastic global traveler.

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The Devil Knows You're Dead (Matthew Scudder Series #11) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is in my view the best Scudder novel yet. A great novel of suspense and mystery, with a twist at the end that could be considered a surprise ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Matthew Scudder is a character straight out of the mystery fiction of the 1930¿s. He is a P.I. in modern day New York but he is so much like Mike Hammer, Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe it is uncanny and must mean a ticket to success. His way of solving his cases is mysterious and gripping. In this novel a man he has met socially, and did not like, is shot dead in the middle of the night while using the public phone in a neighbourhood that is the locale of drug dealers and prostitutes. The police soon catch a likely suspect so the case is closed. When the brother of the suspect hires Scudder to find out the truth ¿ even if his brother did it ¿ Matt uncovers an intriguing mystery. Along the way we meet some interesting characters, most from the twilight world, who provide Matt with inspiration and information.