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Hope to Die (Matthew Scudder Series #15)

Hope to Die (Matthew Scudder Series #15)

3.8 16
by Lawrence Block

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The city caught its collective breath when upscale couple Byrne and Susan Hollander were slaughtered in a brutal home invasion. Now, a few days later, the killers themselves have turned up dead behind the locked door of a Brooklyn hellhole -- one apparently slain by his partner in crime who then took his own life.

There's something drawing Matthew Scudder to


The city caught its collective breath when upscale couple Byrne and Susan Hollander were slaughtered in a brutal home invasion. Now, a few days later, the killers themselves have turned up dead behind the locked door of a Brooklyn hellhole -- one apparently slain by his partner in crime who then took his own life.

There's something drawing Matthew Scudder to this case that the cops have quickly and eagerly closed: a nagging suspicion that a third man is involved, a cold, diabolical puppet master who manipulates his two accomplices, then cuts their strings when he's done with them. No one but Scudder even suspects he exists. And his worst fear is that the guy is just getting started ...

Editorial Reviews

Private eye Matthew Scudder doesn't have a badge, an investigator's license, or the most respectable friends. But he does have other credentials: Legions of loyal readers and an armful of awards for his creator, Lawrence Block. In this crisp mystery, Scudder hunts down a criminal monster who robbed, then murdered a wealthy couple on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
Publishers Weekly
Unlicensed PI Matthew Scudder returns after a three-year absence to investigate the murder of a wealthy couple savagely slain in their Manhattan townhouse. Matt's now 62, and his age shows in this relatively sedate outing. There's less violence than in many cases past, and the urban melancholy that pervaded his earlier tales has dissipated, replaced by a mature reckoning with the unending cycle of life and death. The mystery elements are strong. To the cops, the case is open-and-shut: the perps have been found dead, murder/suicide, in Brooklyn, with loot from the townhouse in their possession. Matt enters the scene when his assistant, TJ, introduces him to the cousin of the dead couple's daughter; the cousin suspects the daughter of having engineered the killings for the inheritance. At loose ends, Matt digs in, quickly rejecting the daughter as a suspect but uncovering evidence pointing to a mastermind behind the murders. Block sounds numerous obligatory notes from Scudder tales past the AA meetings, the tithing of Matt's income, cameo appearances by Matt's love interest, Elaine, and his friend, Irish mobster Mick Ballou and he adds texture with some familial drama involving Matt's sons and ex-wife. His prose is as smooth as aged whiskey, as always, and the story flows across its pages. It lacks the visceral edge and heightened emotion of many previous Scudders, however, and the ending seems patly aimed at a sequel. This is a solid mystery, a fine Block, but less than exceptional. (Nov.) Forecast: All Blocks sell and Scudder's return will do particularly well, especially with the attendant major ad/promo, including a 17-city author tour. Simultaneous Harper Audio and Harper large printedition. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This is the 15th Matthew Scudder novel in 25 years, and readers of Block's noir series know what to expect. It's all here: a perfect evocation of the sights, sounds, and smells of New York City; trips to AA meetings in church basements; Mick Ballou's bar; and the recurring characters such as Ballou, the streetwise TJ, and Elaine, the civilizing influence. In this latest outing, Matt and Elaine attend a "Mostly Mozart" benefit concert at Lincoln Center. At the same concert are a couple who are later murdered in their Upper West Side apartment. Then, the "murderers" are themselves killed in Brooklyn. Without anyone really asking him to, and for want of something better to do, Scudder starts to pick at this case until the whole story unravels before him to a startling conclusion. Every so often, the real murderer narrates a chapter, which adds a cat-and-mouse element. But those looking for fast action will not find it here the pace is leisurely, and characters and set pieces are almost as important as plot. Recommended, especially for public libraries, where readers will ask for it. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/01.] Fred Gervat, Concordia Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Arriving home at their Upper West Side brownstone from the opening concert in the Mostly Mozart series, attorney Byrne Hollander and his writer wife Susan encounter a pair of burglars who leave them dead. It's the most commonplace sort of murder imaginable, and everybody's more than ready to call it closed when forensic evidence implicates a pair of skells found dead in a rundown Brooklyn apartment-everybody, that is, but once-again-unlicensed private eye Matthew Scudder. Maybe Scudder's brooding too much because his ex-wife just died, but there's something about the case that whispers setup to him. His assistant TJ-whose Columbia classmate Lia Parkman, Susan's niece, wonders whether the Hollanders' daughter and wealthy heiress Kristin mightn't have had them killed-eggs him on, and soon he's turned up not only some telltale loose ends in the tightly wound skein of evidence against the late Carl Ivanko and Jason Bierman, but a paying client: Kristin Hollander, who's reached pretty much the same conclusion as her cousin, though not of course down to identifying the same perp. Continuing to ask questions even as the killer realizes he's under suspicion, Scudder unearths a plot as diabolical as it is far-fetched, and a lot less resonant than the nefarious schemes of Even the Wicked (1997) and Everybody Dies (1998). Second-drawer Scudder is still Scudder, but despite the high body count, this battle of wits lacks the somber view of mortality that makes his best work so powerful-right down to the final chapter, which strongly hints at a rematch. Author tour
Marilyn Stasio
“A puzzler...So dry. So droll. So good for the native soul.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Compelling...One can only hope the Matt Scudder series will live on.”
The Boston Sunday Globe
“Lawrence Block writes terrific books. His Matthew Scudder series is his best work.”
The Washington Post Book World
“Remarkable...Block [is] one of the most graceful stylists around.”

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Matthew Scudder Series , #15
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Chapter One

It was a perfect summer evening, the last Monday in July. The Hollanders arrived at Lincoln Center sometime between six and six-thirty. They may have met somewhere -- in the plaza by the fountain, say, or in the lobby -- and gone upstairs together. Byrne Hollander was a lawyer, a partner in a firm with offices in the Empire State Building, and he might have come directly from the office. Most of the men were wearing business suits, so he wouldn't have had to change.

He left his office around five, and their house was on West Seventy-fourth Street between Columbus and Amsterdam, so he had time to go home first to collect his wife. They may have walked to Lincoln Center -- it's half a mile, no more than a ten-minute walk. That's how Elaine and I got there, walking up from our apartment at Ninth and Fifty-seventh, but the Hollanders lived a little further away, and may not have felt like walking. They could have taken a cab, or a bus down Columbus.

However they got there, they'd have arrived in time for drinks before dinner. He was a tall man, two inches over six feet, two years past fifty, with a strong jaw and a high forehead. He'd been athletic in his youth and still worked out regularly at a midtown gym, but he'd thickened some through the middle; if he'd looked hungry as a young man, now he looked prosperous. His dark hair was graying at the temples, and his brown eyes were the sort people described as watchful, perhaps because he spent more time listening than talking.

She was quiet, too, a pretty girl whom age had turned into a handsome woman. Her hair, darkwith red highlights, was shoulder-length, and she wore it back off her face. She was six years younger than her husband and as many inches shorter, although her high heels made up some of the difference. She'd put on a few pounds in the twenty-some years they'd been married, but she'd been fashion-model thin back then, and looked good now.

I can picture them, standing around on the second floor at Avery Fisher Hall, holding a glass of white wine, picking up an hors d'oeuvre from a tray. As far as that goes, it's entirely possible I saw them, perhaps exchanging a nod and a smile with him, perhaps noticing her as one notices an attractive woman. We were there, and so were they, along with a few hundred other people. Later, when I saw their photographs, I thought they looked faintly familiar. But that doesn't mean I saw them that night. I could have seen either or both of them on other nights at Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall, or walking in the neighborhood. We lived, after all, less than a mile apart. I could have laid eyes on them dozens of times, and never really noticed them, just as I very possibly did that night.

I did see other people I knew. Elaine and I talked briefly with Ray and Michelle Gruliow. Elaine introduced me to a woman she knew from a class she'd taken several years ago at the Metropolitan, and to a terribly earnest couple who'd been customers at her shop. I introduced her to Avery Davis, the real estate mogul, whom I knew from the Club of Thirty-one, and to one of the fellows passing the hors d'oeuvres trays, whom I knew from my AA home group at St. Paul's. His name was Felix, and I didn't know his last name, and don't suppose he knew mine.

And we saw some people we recognized but didn't know, including Barbara Walters and Beverly Sills. The occasion was the opening of New York's summer music festival, Mostly Mozart, and the cocktails and dinner were the festival's thank-you to its patrons, who had achieved that status by contributing $2500 or more to the festival's operating fund.

During her working years, Elaine made a habit of saving her money and investing it in rental property around town. New York real estate has been a can't-lose area even for people who do everything wrong, and she did most things right, and has done very well for herself. She was able to buy our apartment at the Parc Vendome, and there's enough income generated by her apartment houses in Queens so that, as far as money is concerned, neither of us needs to work. I have my work as a detective, of course, and she has her shop a few blocks south of us on Ninth Avenue, and we enjoy the work and can always find a use for the money it brings in. But if nobody hired me or bought paintings and antiques from her, we wouldn't wind up missing any meals.

We both like the idea of giving away a certain amount of what comes in. Years ago I got in the habit of stuffing ten percent of my earnings into whatever church poor box came along. I've grown a little more sophisticated in my giving since then, but I still find a way to get rid of it.

Elaine likes to support the arts. She gets to more operas and gallery openings and museum shows than I do (and fewer ball games and prizefights) but we both like music, classical and jazz. The jazz joints don't hit you up for contributions, they just call it a cover charge and let it go at that, but every year we write out a lot of checks to Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. They like to encourage us with perks of one sort or another, and this evening was one of them -- drinks, a sit-down dinner, and complimentary orchestra seats to the opening concert.


Hope to Die. Copyright © by Lawrence Block. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Marilyn Stasio
“A puzzler...So dry. So droll. So good for the native soul.”

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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Hope to Die 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best five star four negative turn off yet. A real borrow not buy
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Guest More than 1 year ago
WOW! There is nothing more you can say about this novel than WOW! This novel is beautifully written and depicts the story so well that I felt as if I was actually there. This book was exceptional
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was pondering on weather I should read another Matthew Scudder novel, seeing as I had not enjoyed the previous one. When my friend had convinced me it was a great book I finally gave in and read it. I am still thanking him today, I couldn't put the book down. It is a must-read for all people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I will admit, at first I was a little skeptical on weather I should read this book seeing that I didnt really enjoy the last Scudder book. Then when People called this the 'page-turner of the week,' I thought I might as well read it. And was I greatful because this is arguably the best Scudder book of them all. I absolutely loved this book. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Block comes back with another superb Scudder crime book! This book takes you through the eyes of a private eye on a crime that was cleverly thought up. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first novel of his I've read and it was VERY disappointing. I don't know if I'll read anymore of this sort. I thought this was utterly boring if I must say.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was my first Block novel and it will probably be my last. The Scudder character drove me nuts. First of all, everything he did was subject to his reviewing it in his mind and endlessly hashing it out. If I had done this then this might have happened and if that had happened then this might have happened ... and on and on and on. Secondly, I could not really see what Scudder did to solve the mystery .. if he had never existed... the result would have pretty much been the same. All he did was comment on each death scene that was revealed. I would much rather read a Ridley Pearson novel. I felt like reading this book was a chore rather than an enjoyment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Another excellent outing from the authors reliably entertaining Matthew Scudder. hard to believe that mr. scudder is in his 60's. this is a tight storyline with suprises galore. a must for scudder fans
Guest More than 1 year ago
With "Hope to Die" Lawrence Block shows that he has not lost his touch. The prose is sharp, witty, and spectacular. The plot is plausible and highly entertaining. Matt Scudder is still one of the best heroes in contemporary mystery fiction. As you probably know, it's been a while since Lawrence Block's last Scudder novel and this one was surely a good comeback. Kudos, Mr. Block. To those who haven't read any of Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder novels, I recommend that you do so as soon as humanly possible, if not sooner. Lawrence Block is a superb writer and the Matt Scudder books are good, unforgettable reads. Amongst the best ones are A Ticket to the Boneyard, A Walk Among the Tombstones, Everybody Dies, and this, his most recent, Hope to Die. Hope this review helps and I hope you have yourself countless good reads and a good life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read all the Scudder novels and found each to be enjoyable. But this one is a clunker and for only one main reason: It is improbable how Scudder gets into this thru TJ. It just doesn't work. There is a disconnect and it's jarring. It's uninspired and really not up to par.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I¿ve been a fan of the ¿Matthew Scudder¿ series by Lawrence Block for about eight years (thank you, Mark, for turning me on to Block, Robert Crais, James Lee Burke, Stuart Woods, and Jeremiah Healy¿I owe you!). The earlier books in the series were so-so, but good enough to keep me coming back. Then, I read A TICKET TO THE BONEYARD, A DANCE AT THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE, and A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES and was blown away by the darkness, the violence, the intensity of the storyline, and the strong character development. In other words, I was hooked! For awhile, I began to think that maybe Andrew Vachss had taken over the series from Mr. Block, and then the novels began to gradually tone down and find a nice balance. They were never again as dark as the above three titles; but, by that time, I¿d become friends with Matthew Scudder and simply enjoyed hanging out with him whenever a new book came out. In HOPE TO DIE, the newest novel in the series, Scudder is now 62 years of age (it made me realize how old I¿m getting), but still going strong. He and Elaine are happily married and are financially set for life¿due to her investments¿so that neither of them has to work again, unless they choose to. On a particular Monday night, both the Hollanders and the Scudders are attending a dinner and concert at the Lincoln Center. After the concert is over, the Hollanders return home (they live less than a mile from Matthew and Elaine) and are brutally murdered by two burglars. The next day when the news of the murders hits the streets, the Scudders are as shocked as the other people who attended the concert that night. Both of the killers are found dead a few days later, locked in an apartment. The police rule it a murder and a suicide, and quickly close the case so that everything can return to normal. Matthew Scudder, however, is drawn to the closed case for some unknown reason, feeling the urge to dig a little and to see what he comes up with. Some of the things in the case don¿t add up for him, and it isn¿t long before he begins to suspect that there was a third person behind the scenes, controlling the crime from beginning to end. With the help of his partner, T.J., Scudder digs even deeper, trying to find someone who might¿ve profited from the death of the Hollanders. The Hollanders¿ daughter and niece are possible suspects, but it doesn¿t feel right to him. He senses that the killer is a male who¿s highly intelligent and utterly diabolical. Scudder also thinks that the killer might strike again. The only question is whether or not our New York P.I. can solve the case before the next murder takes place. HOPE TO DIE is a good, old fashion mystery with well-established characters carrying the storyline to its completion. The author gives us a detailed look at New York City, introduces us to some new characters that may be popping up again in future books, and writes part of the novel from the killer¿s point of view. Neither the killer nor the story is as dark and intense the three novels I listed above. Still, I found HOPE TO DIE to be a fun read. I liked the majority of characters in it and had a good time trying to guess whom the killer really was. With at least fifty novels to his credit, Lawrence Block has certainly mastered the art of writing fiction, and fans of Matthew Scudder will find this novel to a pleasurable addition to the series.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Manhattan someone brutally kills Byrne and Susan Hollander in their home with their daughter Kristin finding the bodies. A few days later the Brooklyn police investigate a bad odor emanating from an apartment only to find two male Caucasian corpses and the Hollander loot. To NYPD both cases close as the apparent Brooklyn suicide-murder event resolves the Manhattan crime.

Though he knew the Hollanders and actually attended the same dinner concert as the victims did on that fatal night, Matthew Scudder has no reason to discount the police conclusion. However, his assistant TJ introduces him to the niece of the Hollanders, Columbia student and wannabe writer Lia Parkman. She believes her cousin arranged the murders of her own parents to inherit a fortune. Unable to resist, Matt begins to investigate, and quickly concludes Kristin is innocent, but someone else arranged the homicides and is not finished with the killings.

The mystery of HOPE TO DIE is as strong as any urban detective story is even though Scudder has lost some of his street edge and is showing his age as a member of the geriatric set. Still that fails to impede him from touring the town looking for clues or interfere with his ability to interpret the evidence. References to past novels add a nostalgic feeling to those long time fans of Scudder. Though the ending leaves an obvious sequel, Lawrence Block furbishes readers with a strong edition of his hard-boiled detective.

Harriet Klausner

Guest More than 1 year ago
Matthew Scudder is back in Lawrence Block¿s latest novel, Hope to Die. As is to be expected, the unlicensed private investigator finds himself drawn into the middle of a horrible and violent murder case that was considered solved and closed by the New York police.

Upon returning home from a night at the theater, a prominent and wealthy couple is surprised to find burglars ransacking their half-million dollar brownstone. The thieves viciously torture and murder the couple and flee with pillowcases full of stolen treasures. The case is immediately solved when the bodies of the burglars are discovered, in a murder-suicide fashion. Open and closed. Nice and neat.

Except what if there was a third thief, a mastermind behind the entire scheme? What if pillowcases full of stolen treasures was not the motive for the crime? What if the wealthy dead couple had a daughter who stood to inherit millions? Or a close-to-the-family niece who would be in better financial standing if an accident happened to her cousin?

What it? What if? Leave it to Lawrence Block to compile and dump on the reader an array of `what if¿s¿ to keep you guessing and keep you turning pages. Leave it to Block to come up with a well thought out and carefully plotted thriller that is nothing short of classic Scudder. The host of characters Block creates are lively and real. Dialogue is crisp and believable. As always the mystery is full of puzzle pieces to sift through. It is no wonder Lawrence Block is an award-winning novelist. Hope to Die is fast and complete and I enjoyed every chapter.
--Phillip Tomasso III, author of Third Ring and Tenth House