SEX CRIMES by Alice Vachss


Ten Years on the Front Lines, Prosecuting Rapists and Confronting Their Collaborators
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 A former prosecutor's bold, if rather wooden, memoir of fighting sexual predators. It's not irrelevant that Vachss is married to novelist Andrew Vachss, who's an Çminence grise throughout these pages, giving the author tough advice, leaving her notes of encouragement on their breakfast table. Alice Vachss strongly shares the hatred of sexual criminals that energizes her husband's thrillers--but what she doesn't share is his way with words: She's a monotonic writer, and, for all their inherent drama, the many cases she describes here from her decade spent prosecuting sex crimes in N.Y.C.'s Queens County unfold flatly; moreover, she tells us little of her years before law school, making this more the memoir of a crusade than of a life. Even so, Vachss embeds hard-hitting messages in her case- histories: that ``rape [is] a choice,'' not an irresistible compulsion; that serial sexual offenders don't reform; that too many judges and cops side with the accused in rape trials. Tales of various prosecutions--of a father who'd raped his daughter from her youth until her 30s; of the rapist who claimed Vietnam-induced stress as his defense; of the local civic leader, a Boys Club director, who preyed upon kids he was supposed to help--offer intricate reconstructions of how Vachss built her cases, with some interesting legal lore salted on: the importance, in order to win a case, of having a ``Good Victim'' (i.e., an appealing one); the effect of dress on a jury (in summations, Vachss wore ``black and white...No gray areas. No excuses''). And all this played against a background of infighting among the political hacks of Queens- -infighting that finally got the toe-stepping author fired. Not gripping, but an effective blow in the war against what Vachss calls a ``self-absorbed sociopathic beast'': the rapist.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-42435-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1993