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A Dance at the Slaughterhouse

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Through nine of Lawrence Block’s grim, skillful urban mysteries, private detective Matthew Scudder has evolved into the perfect noir hero for the age of recovery and codependency. He’s a faithful member of AA whose investigations take him into one inviting gin mill after another, and a stone-souled, not-quite-traditional male who doesn’t want his girlfriend to work. (He has a point — she’s a prostitute.) In A Dance at the Slaughterhouse, Block sends Scudder into the dank realms of boxing and pornography with two investigations, one seeking the director of a snuff film, the other tracking a wife murderer. The way the stories converge, as you know they must, is almost as enjoyable as the painterly touch the author brings to his street-lit depiction of the bars, alleys, and gutters of New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. Despite an overreaching finale in which blood and melodrama flow by the bucketful, Slaughterhouse should only add to the reputation of Block’s series and its smart, sorrowful protagonist. B+