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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Review: Sins of the Fathers by Lawrence Block (the first Scudder novel)

(Audiobook.) There a few authors who can always be relied on to write interesting and entertaining stories. Lawrence Block is one of those. I’ve read many across all of his different series and they never fail to be enjoyable. Some are humorous like the “Burglar” series, others more serious character studies, like Scudder.

Sins of the Fathers is the first Matthew Scudder. Scudder is approached by a man whose daughter has been killed. Her ostensible boyfriend, the killer, has been caught and committed suicide, but the father (nice pun in the title as Scudder has lost his faith with the police department) wants to know why. As Scudder notes, the door has been opened and now he wants to look inside the room. It seems the daughter had left home a few years earlier and had been living as a prostitute.

Scudder, as his fans, will know, is not your usual P.I. A former cop, he now just looks into things for people. He doesn’t file reports, have expense accounts, or any of the usual trapping of the P.I. But he’s very good at asking questions. But that also provides him more latitude and incentive to dig a little harder than a cop might. Of course, nothing is at it first appears and things get complicated. Heart-pounding action it does not have, just good writing and interesting characters.

The book was first published in 1976 and the stereotypic descriptions some of the gay characters is typical of that period. The diatribe of the cab driver against the Zionists controlling and hiking gas prices looks even more ridiculous now than it was then given today’s plummeting costs. Certainly not a criticism, just an observation.

Block is at his best and Alan Sklar does the book credit. The way he reads the dialogue between Scudder and the killer’s father, a sanctimonious minister is priceless. A fine novel.
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