Wow. Just wow. I can easily say this is the first "great" Scudder book. I knew I made a mistake rating the first 4 novels at 5 stars each. It's not that they're bad books, they're just not in the same league as Eight Million Ways to Die.
In the 5th installment of the series, Block takes Scudder and the City of New York all the way down to rock bottom. Whether he's exposing the reader to gang violence and random murders or he's having Scudder drink himself half to death; not a lot of hope escapes these pages.
It's been suggested in the past that Block has had his fair share of problems with alcohol. While he refuses to admit it or even talk about it, you have to think at the very least, he had some personal exposure to the addiction. The subject matter is written with a sense of intensity that is often hard to ignore.
Scudder advances so much as a character in this outing that he's quickly solidifying himself as one of my favorite detectives. His violent outburst against a common street thug is just so bad-ass that I actually found myself yelling "OH!" at the encounter's conclusion. The man can be rather ruthless when threatened but carries a sense of calm when surrounded by others. However, under all that, he comes across as terribly vulnerable this time around. He's just an all around great read and I can't wait to get deeper into the series.