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When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (Matthew Scudder Series #6)

When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (Matthew Scudder Series #6)

4.4 16
by Lawrence Block

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In the dark days, in a sad and lonely place, ex-cop Matt Scudder is drinking his life away -- and doing "favors" for pay for his ginmill cronies. But when three such assignments flow together in dangerous and disturbing ways, he'll need to change his priorities from boozing to surviving.


In the dark days, in a sad and lonely place, ex-cop Matt Scudder is drinking his life away -- and doing "favors" for pay for his ginmill cronies. But when three such assignments flow together in dangerous and disturbing ways, he'll need to change his priorities from boozing to surviving.

Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
One of the best mysteries ever written. As taut and biting as a garrotting wire.
Washington Post
San Francisco Chronicle
Ambitious and intense...A compelling and memorable novel.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The prolific, Edgar Award winning Block has written many mysteries, most in assorted series with colorful protagonists. Featured here is Matt Scudder in his follow-up appearance to Eight Million Ways to Die. Scudder is a former New York cop, now an unlicensed private detective who does favors for friends. Divorced from his wife, who lives with their sons on Long Island, Scudder rooms in a West Side hotel. His real home, however, is any one of three or four local bars, and his family are their owners, staff and habitues. In the summer of 1975, Matt is busy with assorted favors. Tommie Tillary, an investment salesman in flashy clothes, whose wife has been murdered in Bay Ridge, needs to be cleared of suspicion. The real booksas opposed to those shown to the IRSstolen from Skip Devoe's bar must be ransomed, and the masked gunmen who robbed the Morrisey brothers' after-hours place have to be identified. Drinking steadily all summer, Scudder accomplishes all of the above, his intuition, doggedness and respect for a higher law sputtering through the alcoholic haze. Block is an accomplished storyteller, and Matt Scudder is a fine example of hero as human being. Mystery Guild selection. (April 30)

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Matthew Scudder Series , #6
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Chapter One

The windows at Morrissey's were painted black. The blast was loud enough and close enough to rattle them. It chopped off conversation in midsyllable, froze a waiter in midstride, making of him a statue with a tray of drinks on his shoulder and one foot in the air. The great round noise died out like dust settling, and for a long moment afterward the room remained hushed, as if with respect.

Someone said, "Jesus Christ," and a lot of people let out the breath they'd been holding. At our table, Bobby Ruslander reached for a cigarette and said, "Sounded like a bomb."

Skip Devoe said, "Cherry bomb."

"Is that all?"

"It's enough,'' Skip said. ''Cherry bomb's major ordnance. Same charge had a metal casing instead of a paper wrapper, you'd have a weapon instead of a toy. You light one of those little mothers and forget to let go of it, you're gonna have to learn to do a lot of basic things left-handed."

"Sounded like more than a firecracker," Bobby insisted. "Like dynamite or a grenade or something. Sounded like fucking World War Three, if you want to know."

"Get the actor," Skip said affectionately. "Don't you love this guy? Fighting it out in the trenches, storming the windswept hills. slogging through the mud. Bobby Ruslander, battle-scarred veteran of a thousand campaigns."

"You mean bottle-scarred," somebody said.

"Fucking actor," Skip said, reaching to rumple Bobby's hair. "'Hark I hear the cannon's roar.' You know that joke?"

"I told you the joke."

"'Hark I hear the cannon's roar.' When'd you ever hear a shot fired in anger? Last time they had a war," he said, "Bobby brought a note from his shrink. 'Dear Uncle Sam,Please excuse Bobby's absence, bullets make him crazy.'"

"My old man's idea," Bobby said.

"But you tried to talk him out of it. 'Gimmie a gun,' you said. 'I wanna serve my country.'"

Bobby laughed. He had one arm around his girl and picked up his drink with his free hand. He said, "All I said was it sounded like dynamite to me."

Skip shook his head. "Dynamite's different. They're all different, different kinds of a bang. Dynamite's like one loud note, and a flatter sound than a cherry bomb. They all make a different sound. Grenade's completely different, it's like a chord."

"The lost chord," somebody said, and somebody else said, "Listen to this, it's poetry."

"I was going to call my joint Horseshoes & Hand Grenades," Skip said. "You know what they say, coming close don't count outside of horseshoes and hand grenades."

"It's a good name," Billie Keegan said.

"My partner hated it," Skip said. "Fucking Kasabian, he said it didn't sound like a saloon, sounded like some kind of candy-ass boutique, some store in SoHo sells toys for private-school kids. I don't know, though. Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, I still like the sound of it."

"Horseshit and Hand Jobs," somebody said.

"Maybe Kasabian was right, if that's what everybody woulda wound up calling it." To Bobby he said, "You want to talk about the different sounds they make, you should hear a mortar. Someday get Kasabian to tell you about the mortar. It's a hell of a story."

"I'll do that."

"Horseshoes & Hand Grenades," Skip said. "That's what we shoulda called the joint."

Instead he and his partner had called their place Miss Kitty's. Most people assumed a reference to "Gun smoke," but their inspiration had been a whorehouse in Saigon. I did most of my own drinking at Jimmy Armstrong's, on Ninth Avenue between Fifty-seventh and Fifty-eighth. Miss Kilty's was on Ninth just below Fifty-sixth, and it was a little larger and more boisterous than I liked. I stayed away from it on the weekends, but late on a weekday night when the crowd thinned down and the noise level dropped, it wasn't a bad place to be.

I'd been in there earlier that night. I had gone first to Armstrong's, and around two-thirty there were only four of us left, Billie Keegan behind the bar and I in front of it and a couple of nurses who were pretty far gone on Black Russians. Billie locked up and the nurses staggered off into the night and the two of us went down to Miss Kitty's, and a little before four Skip closed up, too, and a handful of us went on down to Morrissey's.

Morrissey's wouldn't close until nine or ten in the morning. The legal closing hour for bars in the city of New York is 4:00 A.M., an hour earlier on Saturday nights, but Morrissey's was an illegal establishment and was thus not bound by regulations of that sort. It was one night up from street level in one of a block of four story brick houses on Fifty-first Street between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues. About a third of the houses on the block were abandoned, their windows boarded up or broken, some of their entrances closed off with concrete block.

The Morrissey brothers owned their building. It couldn't have cost them much. They lived in the upper two stories, let out the ground floor to an Irish amateur theater group, and sold beer and whiskey after hours on the second floor. They had removed all of the interior walls on the second floor to create a large open space. They'd stripped one wall to the brick, scraped and sanded and urethaned the wide pine floors, installed some soft lighting and decorated the walls with some framed Aer Lingus posters and a copy of Pearse's 1916 proclamation of the Irish Republic ("Irishmen and Irishwomen, in the name of God and of the dead generations..."). There was...

When the Sacred Ginmill Closes. 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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When the Sacred Ginmill Closes 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ever since I saw A Walk Among the Tombstones in theaters, I had decided to start reading Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder series. The first was good, but predictable, the second was lackluster, the third and fourth were good as well and you could tell he was improving and opening the world and character up a bit more. Then after the near brilliant 8 Million Ways to Die, he tops it with this. When the Sacred Ginmill Closes isn't a sequel, but more of a prequel. Set a couple of years after Scudder leaves the force, it centers around a couple of cases - one involving robbery and blackmail; the other robbery and murder. It's a slow burn as Scudder goes around town and pieces together the mysteries, but what you get to see is the world that Scudder inhabits, the people in that world, and the darkness that these men are capable of. Yes, even the good guys. Even Matt Scudder. It's a great story, with a bit of a brutal pay off that puts the cherry on top of what I consider to be the best Matt Scudder novel I've read so far. (I'm going in order, so I may get to a better one, and I hope I do!) Lawrence Block is one of the greats - not just in his genre, but in any genre. He's got a simple, straghtforward style that is a joy to read.
SoDak65 More than 1 year ago
Matthew Scudder fights his alcohol addiction, and finally wins. Good story with lots of bad guys. As usual Block holds your attention to the very end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Matt Scudder is living in a residential hotel in New York City after leaving his marriage of twelve years. A former police officer, Matt now works as a private investigator. In spite of Matt's depressing lifestyle, the book does have its lighter side and the reader is entertained throughout by an array of Runyonesque characters who hang around the bars near Columbus Circle.
JCD2 More than 1 year ago
Having read most of the Matthew Scudder mysteries, I believe I would rate this one at the top.  Two robberies and a murder/robbery all come to Matt's attention, but he's far in the bottle and not willing to sober up long enough to see them through. He has his moments of clarity when he is able to figure out the crucial pieces of the puzzle. There is a sadness that pervades Scudder's life and the lives of those around as they move from one gin joint to another.  But that life fades as redemption is found.    
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Finally a good ending
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read easy reading iintresting story line keeps moving along
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RCharles70 More than 1 year ago
This is the third time reading this book, once before I stop drinking, again a couple of months after I stoped, and now on my two year anniversary, I know that neighborhood well from the time he's writing about, he has it down to a T.
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