When last encountered (2000's Dead and Gone
), career criminal Burke was on the rebound from a nearly successful assassination attempt, lying low and licking his wounds in Portland, Oregon. Severed from his connections in NYC, Burke survives on jobs--"violence for money" mostly--brokered by his live-in lover, Gem, an Asian beauty with a painful, larcenous past and a present to match.
At hand is a task Burke has done before: the recovery of a runaway, a 16-year-old girl named Rosebud. But Burke, an assassin with scruples, knows when things aren't right. Rosebud's father, Kevin, has a '60s-era contempt of "The Man" that doesn't jibe with his obvious wealth. Mother Maureen limps through life on pharmaceutical crutches. Younger sister Daisy and best friend Jennifer know things but won't share. As his search spirals out from Portland's mean streets, Burke encounters a mysterious young woman, Ann O. Dyne, who offers to help for a price. Her raison d'être is pain management--securing and dispensing medications vital to the terminally ill but held beyond their reach by a largely uncaring cadre of doctors, lawyers, and politicians. Eventually, of course, this plot line connects with Rose's whereabouts.
Andrew Vachss's MO here, as usual, is a mystery (Rosebud's disappearance) plus an actual cause célèbre (humane pain management). It's a risky formula that aims both to entertain and to enlighten. With its believably unbelievable characters, Vachss's spare noir, and steely pacing that counterpoints a bolt-upright climax, Burke's 13th outing is every bit as satisfying as the dozen that came before. --Michael Hudson
From Library Journal
Fans of Vachss will be thrilled to see that Burke is back in action. Presumed dead after an assassination attempt in Dead and Gone, Burke has gone into hiding in Oregon with his partner, Gem, who calls herself his wife. Biding his time in the hope of eventually making it back to New York, he takes on the task of tracking down a runaway teenage girl. As he scours the streets of New YorkBurke stumbles upon a clandestine society that illegally obtains prescription drugs for people suffering from extreme pain. Believing that they may ultimately hold the key to finding the runaway, he reluctantly agrees to help them obtain a stash of a revolutionary new drug. As Burke becomes drawn into the society's cause, what he finds instead is that he must deal with his own "pain management." Even though he has taken Burke out of his usual surroundings, Vachss has written another winner. For larger fiction collections. Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.