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“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
― Voltaire

Out on the Cutting Edge - Lawrence Block Another fine entry into the Scudder canon. Scudder is always saying he's had a flexible kind of morality, but the truth is, he's one of the most ethical people around, and this book shows the extent of his growth. He tries to do right and be fair, even if it's dealing with a small-time hood or a menacing Irishman with ties to organized crime. As always, characterization shines, and the plotting isn't anything to sneeze at either. The search for a missing woman gives Scudder focus, and now that he's been sober, he's starting to get urges for something a bit more than passing time. Synopsis: Scudder has come a long way. It's been three years since he stopped drinking, and even more significantly, he's comfortable enough to lead a meeting now and then. After one of the meetings, Eddie comes up to him and hints around he'd like to talk. Scudder recognizes him as a crook, but patiently listens to Eddie as he confesses he is stuck on the fifth step of AA, the one about confessing your sins. Meanwhile, Scudder's methodically working on tracking down a young woman from Indiana who has gone missing after coming to New York to break into acting. Scudder follows her trail from boarding house to acting class to various bars as he tries to get a feel for her life. Visiting Eddie's apartment leads him to meeting his super, and Scudder starts to fall hard. It's sweet to watch him come emotionally alive. Unfortunately, she's a heavy drinker, and he's finding that he's spending more and more time in bars trying to work leads.Did I mention it's seriously fine? There's so much to love here: a decent mystery. Characterization and emotional depth that shines, without being overwrought or needing to use a single 'smoldering glance.' Period New York--there's virtually a throw-away scene when Scudder interviews a worker at the Actors' Equity who bemoans everyone being ill, and how "the earth has AIDS. We're all whirling merrily through the void on a dying planet, and gay people are just doing their usual number, being shamelessly trendy as always. Right out in front on the cutting edge of death." Makes me wonder how heartbreaking it must have been to be in New York during the early 80s.More tiny New York vignettes capture the atmosphere of the city and the time: "Around one-thirty it started raining lightly. Almost immediately the umbrella sellers turned up on the streetcorners. You'd have thought they had existed previously in spore form, springing miraculously to life when a drop of water touched them." And Scudder's mercilessly logical self-evaluation:"There was a woman at our table named Helen who'd been sober about the same length of time I had, and for a while now I'd been toying with the idea of asking her out. Now I placed her under covert surveillance, and I kept coming up with data that got entered in the minus column. Her laugh was grating, she needed some dental work, and every sentence out of her mouth had the phrase you know in it. By the time she was done with her hamburger, our romance had died unborn. I'll tell you, it's a great way to operate. You can run through women like wildfire and they never even know it."Perfect, for so many reasons.Why not a '5'? I suppose because I save that for books I must own, and I'm okay for the moment to borrow these from the library. I may reconsider with this one.