Burke's final ride
Fans of Andrew Vachss' Burke series know the take-no-prisoners protagonist as something of an avenging angel. Indeed, the latest (and purportedly the last) Burke adventure, Another Life, starts out down that very path: "Revenge is like any other religion: There's always a lot more preaching than there is practicing. And most of the preaching is about what not to practice." Vachss weaves two disparate story lines together as Burke is drawn into a sordid kidnapping case while his own father lies dying from a gunshot wound. "Sordid" barely begins to describe the kidnapping—a young boy was snatched from the backseat of his father's Rolls Royce shortly after witnessing his father's impromptu assignation with a paid companion. Naturally, the father, a Saudi prince, wants his child back; it is equally important to him that the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping not become tabloid fodder. Enter Burke, courtesy of his "handler," a shadowy government spook by the name of Pryce. This is definitely not a job Burke wants, particularly at this time of family crisis, but according to Pryce, he has little choice. And so, once again Burke will prowl the mean streets of New York in search of answers, when in fact he may not even know all the questions. Another Life is not a book for the squeamish. Justice is dealt out with Old Testament swiftness and creativity, at times in a nightmare-inspiring manner. Somehow, though, it doesn't have the definitive series-ending moment one might have expected. Perhaps Vachss will relent somewhere down the road and treat his fans to another novel or two?
This review refers to the hardcover edition.