Andrew Vachss,
(Dutton, 1985)

I know all about Harry Bosch, Tess Monaghan and Matthew Scudder. (Lucas Davenport, too, but he's not quite in their league.) I hadn't met Burke yet. Now I have, in Flood.

Some observations:

Flood is not a mystery. It shows the elaborate (and I do mean elaborate) construction of a trap to find and eliminate a child killer. The payoff is that a much-deserved revenge is served up.

• It's set in Manhattan, where Scudder also works, but where Scudder's city is corrupt and brutal, Burke's is infected. All in all, it's much darker.

• The precautions Burke takes in his daily life come close to preposterous. His flat is a maze of spyware and booby traps. Even his car, a tricked-out Plymouth, has, among other things, razor-sharp tire rims (to deter tire thieves).

• He's an orphan and an ex-con. You learn a good bit about what prison taught him. He's on a friendly basis with a cop or two.

• The woman in the novel, Flood, is a martial-arts fighter who spends a lot of time with no clothes on. She's also apparently a lesbian, but....

• Burke's crew, a kind of family, is a colorful lot that includes a pre-op transexual, a hulking martial-arts guy, a wizened old "prophet" and a tech master called "the Mole" who seems to live in a cave made out of derelict cars.

• Maggots. Lots of them.

• The heavy, called the Cobra, never comes into clear focus. He's young and wants to be a merc. He rapes and kills children. That's why he wants to be a merc.

• The coda, in which a pimp is taught a lesson, is a nice comic payoff.

All in all, I think I'll be spending more time with Burke.

review by
Dave Sturm

10 October 2009

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