Burke, that sworn enemy of child-abusers, is back for the 13th time (Pain Management, 2001, etc.) doing business as the same old scourge. Well, not quite, inasmuch as Giovanni Antrelli, though a family man in his own way, represents something of a departure among Burke’s clients. Giovanni is a rising star in the Mafia firmament, with all the hard-guy credentials that title implies. But he’s hurting, furious, and just a little worried. Sixteen years ago, he had a daughter with a beautiful black woman, an indiscretion that was such an obvious Mafia career-breaker that he separated from paramour and progeny and kept their existence a deeply buried secret. It’s been disinterred, he tells Burke, by someone presumably as ruthless as himself, for now the child is suddenly dead. In his own distorted way, Giovanni loved the girl he never set eyes on, but that’s not really the issue. He has to know if some implacable enemy has chosen this grotesque way of getting his attention. Why does he think Burke can supply the answer he needs? Everyone who operates in the dark underbelly that’s Burke’s New York has heard about him, says Giovanni, adding rather enigmatically that Burke “knows the value of things.” Burke certainly knows the monetary value of this particular thing. Stone-broke, he assembles the usual cast of Burke irregulars and grabs the assignment.
Vintage Vachss, with hell-for-leather pacing propelling the story over gaping plot holes.