this book from

name is Cameron Hughes and I love books. I love them. I could read all day and
my dream is to write novels. How cool would that be? I’d get to read, get my
own stuff out there, and have a way to get all the ideas in my head out. As a
boy in a wheelchair, I couldn’t always play the games, so I had to read. It
went from a grudging alternative to a passion. My parents, avid readers
themselves, were over-joyed.

when Nick asked me try and help kick start book reviewing on CHUD, I jumped at
the chance, and my first one will be about my idol Lawrence Block.

He’s a master at conversation and I’ve spent hours studying (He
often has one conversation go on for dozens of pages if not chapters,) just
trying to figure out how the hell he makes it look so easy, the way he sets a
scene, and the way the characters shift from topic to topic, and all his
characters have a different way of speaking and interacting with others, from
the quiet and thoughtful Matthew Scudder, capable of surprising violence and
great warmth, the Irish brogue of Mick Ballou, an affable career criminal who
will just as soon kill if its business as invite you to sit and have a drink
and share stories and bullshit with you, to the quick-talking but deceptively
brilliant TJ, former street hustler who is the closest thing Scudder has for a
son. He’s a black kid from the streets who has dreams of being a detective like
Scudder, while charming his way into taking classes at NYU as well as playing
the Stock Market. Block has a gift for characters, from the ones you see all
the time, to characters that appear in only a few scenes, or even just one. There’s something engaging about Block’s skill
as Scudder walks the streets of New York (He never drives) and ponders the way
he has changed over the years, the way his loved ones have changed, and how his
beloved city seems almost tame these days.


If so, it’s a decent, if not up to his usual brilliant standard,
ending to the series. ALL THE FLOWERS ARE DYING opens on the eve of an
execution. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the man on death row protests
he did not commit three murders. The only one who believes him is a
psychologist who meets with the condemned man before witnessing his death by
lethal injection.

At the same time, Scudder agrees to help out a friend by checking out a man she
has met through an online dating service. He could be Mr. Right, but he seems
to have secrets in his life that trouble her. As Scudder finds out, he has good
reason to keep some things hidden.

The narration switches from Scudder’s POV to the killer, who in
such chilling scenes, calmly frames a man for the brutal murder of several
children and even attends the man’s execution. The switch of POV from Scudder
to the killer weakens it somewhat as Scudder is such a rich character and his
thoughts are deep and introspective and the people he holds dear in his life
are just as satisfying reading about, be it his wife, the quietly funny and
loving Elaine, who was once a call girl, to former cop Joe Durkin who often
rants about the ills of the world and is a terror when having one drink too
many. With a lesser writer, I might have been okay with the two POV’s, but
Block has created such a wonderful world and his characters are so deep, that
you find yourself longing to know their thoughts and words when the killer is
doing his thing. The POV of the killer
is chilling, but a little flat and black and white. Block makes him almost the
exact opposite of Scudder, he ponders death and aging as well as our hero, but
his cunning is brutal and he plots everything down to the minute to succeed in
his brutal ways. One of the best written scenes with the killer is when he
reminisces about his first kill after buying a knife. He picked up a girl and
the sex was good, great actually, and almost as if it was natural, he calmly
slices her throat and she dies almost instantly. In a thoughtful moment, he
thinks, hey, that was kind of fun, maybe I’ll do it again.

New York, as always, is a living and breathing character in the
way he writes it. Block is a native New Yorker and it shows how he lovingly
portrays his city, how politics have seemed to tame it, but also the darker
hidden aspects of it. Scudder almost regards it as an old friend, how it has
given him gifts like TJ, Ballou, and especially Elaine, and how the city has
almost taken them all away numerous times, almost like a force of nature that
cannot be denied, only postponed.

It’s not his darkest book, as the publicity has been saying, and
it took me a few tries to finally decide what I thought and it’s a worthy
ending to Scudder. It’s a deceptively simple and logical ending for him, and
while it doesn’t have the power or depth of the endings to EVERYBODY DIES or
else? Everybody else is dead” He says at the end of EVERYBODY DIES and the
quietly moving scene at the end of EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE with Scudder at
AA), but Scudder is an old man, his surrogate son is an adult, he’s a
domesticated man, even career criminal Mick Ballou finds himself doing honest
work behind the bar now more than his past criminal deeds. If there’s another
Scudder novel, I’ll happily read it and marvel at Block’s way with people and
words, but if not, I quietly applaud the end of one of crime fiction’s most
quietly powerful and moving series that spanned over thirty years, We have seen
Scudder age throughout the years and move from a drunk to reformed alcoholic to
happily married and semi-retired and it was all a joy. Read Block, it’ll be
good for you.

8.25 out of 10