When The Sacred Gin Mill Closes by Lawrence Block


A now sober ex-cop Matthew Scudder looks back on a darker time a few years off the job when he drank and did “favors” for friends who paid him for his trouble. When three separate jobs come together over several weeks one summer, a pattern emerges that forces Scudder to look inward, make hard choices, and take honest stock of his life.


In When The Sacred Gin Mill Closes, Scudder looks back on the mysteries at the heart of the book from a sober vantage point notably different from the one he had when investigating the incidents. Scudder perceives and questions situations and evidence more broadly, and the reader sees two protagonists: the Scudder who acted in the past and the Scudder changed by those actions and their consequences.

Block wrote the previous books in the Scudder series from a first-person perspective, but they’re written from within the same whiskey-soaked era when they occur. Without distance, the stories feel depressed. Scudder’s a bit defeated, and he’s constantly struggling to break from that depression, to find in his work something worth fighting for but finding himself left with more defeat.

With the separation of a few years, a few AA meetings, and a few hundred sober nights, Scudder views his adventures with a sense of purpose that doesn’t change the character so much as the reader’s experience. We, like the protagonist whose layered perspective we share, look at Scudder’s New York with a clearer, less amber tinted view. We see through the glass more clearly.


American crime writer Lawrence Block is a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master and a multiple winner of the Edgar, Shamus, and Maltese Falcon awards. He’s best known for the Mathew Scudder and Bernie Rhodenbarr novels; both series are set in New York.

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