SACRIFICE by Andrew Vachss


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 A routine sixth outing for Vachss's dark knight Burke--that is, a bitter cup overflowing with satanic child-rape, multiple personality disorder, voodoo, execution-murders, and other workaday hazards of the ``outlaw'' p.i.'s ever-more bleak--and vengeful--Gotham half-life. Back from a series-freshening trip to Indiana (Blossom, 1990), Burke again surrounds himself with series regulars (martial-arts master Max the Silent, electronic wizard Mole, etc.) who play Robin to his Batman as he again takes on child abusers--attorney Vachss's legal foes in real life. What is missing is the sort of strong heroine (Flood, Blue Belle, etc.) who in the past has grounded Burke's high-voltage vigilantism; here, Burke's main female companionship is provided by a prostitute--representative of the sort of nasty turns that dominate the novel, which opens with Burke posing as a blind man to nail a ``freak''--a child abuser. Soon, bigger prey beckons: a child-porn ring with satanic trappings whose grim abuse has made a multiple personality of one eight-year-old Luke, with one of the personalities a stone killer. A crusading D.A. wants to try Luke for murder, but Burke persuades her to go after the cult--a decision that, coupled with his work on another case, sweeps him into a netherworld inhabited by, among others, a wealthy pedophile, a demented counterfeiter, a slick gun-runner, and an alluring voodoo queen. The brutal action is slightly sweetened by Burke's tutelage of a young, personable gangster, and significantly soured by his self-pitying running commentary (``I live under the darkness, where it's safe. Safe from things so secret that they have no name'')--and explodes in a merciless mass-killing by Burke of the cult, blood-revenge for his own sufferings as a child. Vachss still writes a mean page, full of sound and fury; but his spike-hard prose and action are blunted by a moralism that smugly sets Burke up as the most obnoxiously self-righteous--and increasingly one-note--judge, jury, and executioner since Mike Hammer.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1991
ISBN: 0-679-40283-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1991


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