SAFE HOUSE by Andrew Vachss


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 Child-abuse specialist Burke expands his righteous field of operations--his one-man harrowing of our modern cityscape--to cover an Aryan supremacist network of terrorists. Not by design, of course. Burke and his ragtag band of urban avengers--Clarence, the Prof, the Mole, Max the Silent--start off much closer to their usual turf, on a self-ordained mission to take down domestic abusers who've turned into stalkers of their terrified women. Their eye-for-an-eye campaign leads them to Crystal Beth, who runs a shelter for women who have nowhere else to go. Vachss (False Allegations, 1996, etc.) establishes the safe house's credentials by admitting testimony from its desperate clients: the rape victim whose husband kept raping her ``because I owed him''; the S/M player whose latest playmate refused to quit the game; the cyber-chump who was seduced by a predator who disseminated a falsely heroic image of himself over the Internet; the porn star whose most reverential fan had turned into an obsessive erotomaniac. But no story is more heartrending than that of hugely pregnant Marla, whose white-supremacist husband Lothar Bucholtz (born Larry Bretton, a name he jettisoned because it sounded too Jewish) is waiting for her to deliver the son he's already named Gerhardt so that he can spirit him off to his coven of neo-Nazis. When Burke and Co. try to move against Lothar, they run up against a brick wall named Pryce, who tells them Lothar can't be touched. It doesn't take long for Burke to work out the reason why: Lothar is the designated informant who's going to bring down his pack of bombing buddies, and custody of Gerhardt, along with immunity for his earlier peccadilloes, is part of the price the US government has included in his severance package. A lesser crew of vigilantes would be stymied at this point, but the scheme Burke hatches to take Lothar down is a thing of beauty. Think of a lesser James Bond adventure, minus the high-tech gadgetry and the rules.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-375-40084-2
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1998


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