In the Midst of Death is the second in Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder series.
The good: We spend more time with Matthew Scudder, and learn more about Matthew Scudder. We learn more about his relationship with his former police department. We see that his alcoholism has advanced beyond the functional level it was at in the first book, The Sins of the Fathers. We even get a look at what he’s like on a date.
The bad: We get a really improbable sex scene (I almost wrote “one of the most improbable sex scenes I’ve ever read,” but then remembered several that were much worse–maybe I ought to start some sort of Razzie award equivalent for these) and a terrible cracking of the case–Scudder’s “intuition” leads him to the solution despite a near-total lack of clues.
The verdict: I don’t read Matt Scudder novels for the mystery, I read them for Scudder. It’s worth putting up with the flaws in In the Midst of Death to watch the character develop, and it’s short enough and enjoyable enough that there’s no reason to skip it if you’re reading the series. If you’re only looking to sample a couple, look elsewhere.