Thursday, August 16, 2018

FFB: Eight Million Ways To Die by Lawrence Block

Eight Million Ways To Die is the fifth novel in Lawrence Block’s mystery-crime series featuring alcoholic ex-cop, Matthew Scudder, and it is a terrific read.

In this book, Scudder is approached by a call girl who wants out of the life but is afraid to confront her pimp. She pays Scudder to break the news to the pimp and to see that he lets her go.

Surprisingly, the pimp agrees with little argument. But a couple days later, Scudder reads in the newspaper of the gruesome murder of the prostitute.

The cops have too many crime reports to handle and cannot devote much time or effort to the call girl’s murder. Strangely, the pimp wants the murder solved, and he pays Scudder to investigate. The pimp says his reputation is on the line and his other girls don’t feel safe. Scudder wonders if the pimp is using him to take the heat off himself as the obvious prime suspect. This is just one of many paths Scudder must go down as more angles to the murder are uncovered.

Block is one of the few novelists who can weave a complicated mystery together with a personal story – Matthew Scudder’s rocky road to recovery. The side trips to bars and AA meetings is never distracting or dull – just the opposite. Scudder’s dual struggle to solve the mystery and fight his urge to drink create a good deal of tension in this book.

Published in 1982, Eight Million Ways To Die takes place in New York City when the Big Apple was in the economic dumps, and Matthew Scudder has to navigating those mean streets. It is also a time before laptops and cell phones, and a reminder of what now seems like the distant past when Scudder has to look for a phone booth to make a call.

Eight Million Ways To Die is a well constructed mystery with plenty of clues for readers to play detective along with Scudder. But, perhaps due to the age of the book, I was on the right track to the killer earlier than I expected. Still, there are enough twists and turns to keep those pages turning.

Some friends have reviewed this book with slightly different takes on it. Col, at Col’s Criminal Library, wrote here, and Sergio at Tipping My Fedora, reviewed the book and the movie here.

(For more posts on books, head over to Todd Mason’s site.)


  1. I read EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE back in 1982. I read many of Lawrence Block's novels in the 1970s. I'm impressed with Block's ability to maintain quality while being prolific.

  2. Cheers for the mention, I actually had to look up whether I'd read this one or not. My memory definitely isn't what it used to be.