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A Drop of the Hard Stuff – “On the Wagon”

February 17, 2013

A Drop of the Hard Stuff

by  Lawerence Block

Paperback: 352 pages

Publisher: Mulholland Books

ISBN-10: 0316127310

Ever start reading a book for one reason and then find out it delivers in a completely unexpected different way? I began this one a little cautiously because it used the twelve step program of AA. Then I remembered that my older brother (now deceased) had belonged to AA for twenty years, without telling any of his relatives and I thought maybe I could learn a little about that secret life.

I did discover this through the narrator who is coming up on the anniversary of his first year of sobriety, but also through someone who is murdered while making amends to another he has offended (one of the ten steps)—he and a partner had killed a loved one and now his former partner is afraid the narrator will unleash the legal ramifications on him, the partner—discovered this is a wonderful structure for a mystery book.

I liked the New York setting, the narrator’s temptations to fall off the wagon, the structure that needs naturally to its conclusion. But also, it’s a mystery story that makes you think about the meaning of life…and living it deliberately.

There are good twists and turns that keep you turning pages, but it is the deeper meaning that stays with you long after the story is through. This is not a book that I would want to read again, but it has given me a clear understanding of my brother, and of my own life (not tainted by any substance abuse). I commend the writer for his originality and the wonderful credibility that goes well beyond personal experience or any mystery story.

Lawerence Block

4 out of 5

To order this directly from Amazon for  10.94, click: A Drop of the Hard Stuff (Matthew Scudder)

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