Child-abuse specialist Burke (Footsteps of the Hawk, 1995, etc.) is hired for a unique assignment: to see if he can disprove...



Child-abuse specialist Burke (Footsteps of the Hawk, 1995, etc.) is hired for a unique assignment: to see if he can disprove an accuser's allegations of childhood abuse. Not exactly Burke's territory, you say? No, and he doesn't get into it very straightforwardly either. A working girl who's been hired to do specialty dances for an unseen voyeur in a neighboring high-rise leads him to a shady dealmaker who leads him in turn to Kite, the albino lawyer whose mission is to debunk the ""Fabrication for Secondary Gain Syndrome""--falsely ""recovered"" allegations of long-ago child abuse concocted for money or power. In order to disprove the canard that ""kids never lie about child sexual abuse,"" Kite has to be able to show which kids are lying and which aren't--which means that before he goes public with his counter-accusations about bogus repressed memories, he needs to establish his own credibility by backing one victim who demonstrably isn't lying. To make sure this victim's story is ironclad, this devil's advocate needs a devil's advocate of his own. And that's where Burke comes in--as another seeker of truth who'll do everything he can to impeach Jennifer Dalton's story about Brother Jacob, the Psalmist clergyman she now says molested her as a child, in order to make sure she's really telling the truth. Having set up this elaborate array of wheels within wheels, Vachss does surprisingly little with it. After the tour of the usual stinking fleshpots that brought him to Kite in the first place, Burke's investigation of Jennifer's story--two parts routine background checks, one part blackmail of Brother Jacob, one part consultation with real-life brain-trauma specialist Dr. Bruce Perry--is disappointingly anticlimactic. So is the climactic final twist, which every reader not suffering from post-traumatic amnesia will see coming long before Burke does. Vachss has never sacrificed fictional interest to muckraking as zealously as he does here.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996


Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996