Review: A Stab In the Dark by Lawrence Block

A Stab In the Dark is the 4th book in Lawrence Block’s much-celebrated and highly respected Matt Scudder series. The series is based in New York City. Scudder is an alcoholic who is not actually a licensed private investigator but who has a knack for getting to the heart of matters and takes jobs through word of mouth. Rather than saying he is being hired, he merely regards it as doing a favor for a friend.

Book Details

Title: A Stab In the Dark
Author: Lawrence Block
Pages: 197
Published Date: 1981
Publisher: Arbor House
Series Details: 4th book in the Matt Scudder series
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Publisher's Synopsis

Nine long years have passed since the killer last struck—nine years since eight helpless young women were brutally slaughtered by an icepick-wielding maniac. The trail grew cold, and the book was unofficially closed on a serial killer who stopped killing. But now the "Icepick Prowler" has confessed—but only to seven of the killings. Not only does he deny the eighth but he also has an airtight alibi.

Barbara Ettinger's family had almost come to accept that the young woman was the victim of a random killing. Now they must grapple with the shocking revelation that not only was her death disguised to look like the serial killer's work but her murderer may have been someone she knew and trusted.

Matthew Scudder has been hired to finally bring her slayer to justice, setting the relentless detective on the trail of a death almost a decade old, searching for a vicious murderer who is either long gone, long dead—or patiently waiting to kill again.

From the Dustjacket

Louis Pinell, the recently apprehended "Icepick Prowler," freely admits to having slain seven young women nine years ago -- but be swears it was a copycat who killed Barbara Ettinger Matthew Scudder believes him. But the trail to Ettinger's true murderer is twisted, dark and dangerous...and even colder than the almost decade-old corpse the p.i. is determined to avenge.

Reviews from Other Sites

Dead End Follies

“A STAB IN THE DARK takes the most classical investigation storytelling trope and turns it into a pulverising novel through technical mastery alone. I used to think the Matthew Scudder novels were pretty enjoyable, but now I understand the powerful hype behind them.

Count me in as a member of the Church of Scudder Almighty...” - Read Full Review

Black Guys Do Read

“It's going to get harder and harder writing fresh reviews for these Lawrence Block novels. Once again he has written a solid piece of detective mystery fiction in this latest installment in his Matthew Scudder series, about an ex-cop who lives a lonely life in a hotel room in Manhattan and does "favors" for people as an unlicensed private investigator. In this novel, Scudder takes on a nine-year old cold case after a serial killer is finally caught, and confesses to all of his suspected killings except for one…” - Read Full Review

Noirboiled Notes

“In A Stab in the Dark, the fourth Matthew Scudder novel, Scudder takes on a cold case involving a young woman stabbed with an ice pick. Scudder forms a semi-ludicrous theory as to who and why, and when Scudder confronts the who with this theory…” - Read Full Review

Book Addicts

“Matthew Scudder’s day begins with a man approaching him and sitting down at his table at his favorite bar. The man is Charles F. London, a man who makes a living selling insurance to corporations. He gives Scudder $1500 to investigate the murder of his daughter Barbara Ettinger that occurred nine years ago. Why the wait?” – Read Full Review

GoodReads Reviews

At the time of writing there are 195 reviews posted to the GoodReads website for an average of 4/5 stars. You can read these reviews by visiting the GoodReads website.

Amazon Reviews

At the time of writing there are 87 customer reviews on for an average of 4.3/5 stars. You can read these reviews by visiting the Amazon website.

Other Shamus Best PI Novel nominees - 1982