As the calendar turned to 2020, and with the release of Dead Girl Blues, Lawrence Block entered his eighth decade as an author. With published work spanning all the way back to the 1950s, and a level of quality most authors can only dream of, it certainly says something that this book is being called perhaps his best work yet.
That being said, a book receiving such praise won’t be for everyone. Why? Well, there’s a graphic, brutal crime committed at the very beginning that would likely turn off most readers. I won’t go into detail here but suffice it to say, it’s as heinous an act as you can imagine. Block then asks the reader to stick with this human being for the duration of the story. It’s a tough sell, but it’s Lawrence Block after all and I think he’s owed a chance to tell the story he wants to tell here.
After the crime is committed, the story follows the perpetrator as he travels across the United States in search of a new life for himself. As time passes and he weaves himself into everyday life, he faces an ongoing battle with whether or not he should chance it and commit that crime once again.
Maybe it’s the supporting cast that Block chose to surround his main character with or the quaint charm of small town life that had me flying through this novel. And let’s be honest, Block’s prose is so effortlessly digestible that it can be fed to anyone looking to nurse themselves back from a reading slump. It could be any one of these. Or it could just be a really good story in the end?
The truth is, it’s a story about a hopelessly damaged individual with little to no regret for his actions, yet the path he chooses in life is an honorable one. Does he only do this because he thinks it’s what he has to do to keep himself in check or does he begrudgingly enjoy this life he’s made for himself? I would find myself at times actually rooting for this guy and pleased he was able to find security but then I remember just exactly what he is and get brought back down to earth. It’s such an incredible achievement in what I want to say is reader manipulation, but I don’t even believe it’s quite that as the narrator isn’t at any point dishonest or misleading to his audience.
Dead Girl Blues is an easy five-star read from me and is likely going to be the most interesting book I read in 2020. Whether you’re a fan of Block or not, it’s worth checking out.