Vachss takes a break from Burke (Another Life, 2008, etc.) to spin an unlikely tale of redemption through renunciation.
Abandoned by his prostitute mother to a better life in a monastery, Ho joined the Sun Emperor’s Army at 13. After Japan’s defeat, his growing fame as a sensei led him to America, where his arrogance caused a favorite martial-arts student’s death. Now he wanders the streets with a ragged band of outcasts, “fishing” for handouts during the day and sleeping in coffin-sized dugouts carved into the base of the Hudson River’s Pier Nine. Ranger, a shell-shocked veteran who naturally thinks Ho is Vietnamese, gives him his street name, short for Ho Chi Minh. Michael, a compulsive gambler, lives in hope of finding the “mortal lock,” a sure thing that will restore his fortune. Lamont, an ex-con poet whose brief fame ended with a crash, knows there’s no sure thing, only a fickle public’s whims. What Target knows is anyone’s guess. Speaking only in rhymes (“Bunny! Sunny! Honey! Funny!”), he desperately seeks company, though he refuses to be left alone with any one other person. Brewster, the most domesticated of the tribe, provides their mission: to move and preserve the vast collection of vintage detective fiction he’s stashed in a derelict building slated for demolition. If he can’t save Brewster’s lifeline to sanity, Ho knows his own life, and his internal haiku, will lack a respectful ending.
Covers much of the same felonious ground as Burke’s adventures, but with less violence and more compassion.