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Strega Paperback – January 30, 1996

Book 2 of 18 in the Burke Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his first novel, Flood, attorney-turned-novelist Vachss introduced Burke, the ex-con investigator who's not averse to working either side of the law. The book captured the brutal atmosphere of New York's underbelly. This modern-day Robin Hood returns to that seamy world, complete with a merry band that includes a mute Mongolian strongman, a weird genius who lives in a junkyard, a transvestite prostitute and an intimidating dog named Pansy. Hired by a strangely alluring Mafia princess calling herself Strega ("witch" in loose translation ), Burke must find a certain photograph of a child forced into a sex act. Plunged into the world of kiddie porn, he wreaks havoc on the perverts, pimps and pedophiles he despises, the true "bad guys" in his view of things. Despite its action and fast pace, the book is less compelling than the author's first, lapsing into a sort of predictability and short on the pulsing energy a thriller must sustain. 50,000 first printing.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Streetwise and otherwise smart ex-con Burke narrates this second journey ( Flood ) through New York's garish underworld. The tough, unlicensed private investigator and his memorable cohorts work outside the law, but physically hurt only the true scum: street and subway punks, dope dealers and child abusers. With the help of Max the Silent (deaf-mute Chinese muscle), Michelle (fabulous-looking pre-transsexual hooker), Mole (thick-glassed demolition genius), Immaculata (sympathetic Vietnamese psychotherapist), and Pansy (malevolent Italian guard dog), Burke searches for a kiddie porn picture that will salvage the sanity of a cherubic six-year-old boy. This story fairly crackles with intensity, and the TV/p.i.-type narrator fuels the excitement with wry asides, gangster-wary movements, and cautious self-assurances. Great reading. Rex E. Klett, Anson Cty. Lib., Wadesboro, N.C.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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More from Andrew Vachss
Andrew Vachss's gritty and seductive novels pull readers into the dark underground of Manhattan crime. Visit Amazon's Andrew Vachss Page.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Crime/Black Lizard ed edition (January 30, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679764097
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679764090
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #794,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrew Vachss has been a federal investigator in sexually transmitted diseases, a social-services caseworker, a labor organizer, and has directed a maximum-security prison for "aggressive-violent" youth. Now a lawyer in private practice, he represents children and youth exclusively. He is the author of numerous novels, including the Burke series, three collections of short stories, and a wide variety of other material including song lyrics, graphic novels, essays, and a "children's book for adults." His books have been translated into twenty languages, and his work has appeared in Parade, Antaeus, Esquire, Playboy, The New York Times, and many other forums. His books have been awarded the Grand Prix de Littérature Policiére, the Falcon Award, Deutschen Krimi Preis, Die Jury des Bochumer Krimi Archivs and the Raymond Chandler Award (per Giurìa a Noir in Festival, Courmayeur, Italy). Andrew Vachss' latest books are Mortal Lock (Vintage, May 2013) and Aftershock (Pantheon, June 2013). The dedicated Web site for Vachss and his work is vachss.com.

Customer Reviews

Strega is a nice, tough-guy mystery that is a good, fast read.
mrliteral
Realistic - some of the toughest prose I've read - amazingly lifelike characters - riveting!
Jana L. Perskie
If you can only read one book by Andrew H. Vachss, make it STREGA.
Kent Braithwaite

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
Strega, my first Andrew Vachss novel has definitely not been my last. One of the most intriguing and philosophically stimulating authors I've read; a rare find in this genre. Vachss delivers poignant insights into our modern society & human interaction. These insights are woven into an exciting story of good (sort of) vs evil (the vilest), populated with characters more bizarre than even Hiassen creates. There are only few authors about whom you can say 'I'd read anything he/she wrote'- Vachss is one of these.
It is film noir on paper. It IS New York Haiku. It is a delight.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Setter on February 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
When I first read this book, I immediately read it again. It is about a private detective, ex-con who goes where the law cannot and seeks what citizens either cannot stomach or like to ignore. It is a crash course into the hard, sick industry of child-molesters and child abusers. The P.I. Burke is a few degrees above totally criminal, but righteous enough to seek justice. The story entertained but also opened my eyes to a world of just plain evil.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Rubendall HALL OF FAME on May 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
The opening scene of "Strega," in which Burke stallks a stalker, is as effective as anything he's written. The climax is so good, the rest of the book is almost a letdown. But never fear, beyond the opening Vachss sends Burke in pursuit of the subject closest to his heart, a child being sexually abused. You know that Burke is going to find and confront those responsible. How he gets there, with the help of the "witch" Strega, is well worth the price of admission. This is one of Burke's best adventures.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dan Seitz on December 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
While later on in this series he takes an unfortunate turn into action novel territory (from which he's slowly recovering), this is probably the best book in the whole series. If you're looking for the hardest noir out there, this is the farthest you'll get before having to raid the small presses. This comes after "Flood" in the chronology, although I don't think it's necessary to read that novel first (although it too is quite good.) "Strega" is not a wonder of the English language, but it is razor sharp in terms of characterization and visualization. Vachss doesn't think much of himself as a writer, but here he shows he has chops. His spare descriptions are vivid. It should be noted, however, this book is not for the weak of stomach. It's not gory so much as...you see more of the evil side of humanity in this book than you ever want to in real life, let me put it that way. Not a beach read, but an excellent book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jana L. Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 20, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Strega" is Andrew Vachss' second novel starring Burke, the hard-boiled, in-your-face, ex-con detective, who still isn't sure on which side of the law he prefers to operate. Abandoned at birth, father and mother unknown, Burke has no real first name. "Baby boy" is the name on his birth certificate. The novel is set 1980s NYC, before Mayor Guiliani came to office and cleaned up the mean streets - or tried to. "Strega" is also the first Andrew Vachss book I have read. I must say, I am very impressed by his writing style and storyline. Most of the Burke series deals with hunting down and prosecuting child molesters, as does this novel. Mr. Vachss has selected a noble cause, and deals professionally and knowledgeably with the topic. The author is a lawyer, specializing in prosecuting child abuse cases, so he certainly has the expertise to be an advocate. He openly admits that he writes about the abuse of children because he wants to raise people's awareness of what's going on, and he'll reach a wider audience with fiction.

P. I. Burke is the narrator. And the narrative, at times, goes off on a tangent, like Burke's thought processes. The PI is a careful guy. He always returns to make his point. I think this occasional stream of consciousness is extremely effective and enhances the detective's persona. Vachss still manages to maintain a tight writing style throughout. Everything and everyone comes under Burke's cynical, seen-it-all scrutiny. I have never learned more about the underworld and life behind bars than in this novel. I find the descriptions of the seamier side of life, the one "citizens" rarely observe, to be fascinating. Burke's expert eye takes in details of life on the street that I never would. "The streets were quiet, but if you look close, you could see things.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By mrliteral VINE VOICE on August 4, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A couple years ago, I read Flood, the first book in Andrew Vachss's series of Burke novels. It was a good novel, albeit rather grim. I always figured I'd read another in the series, but it kind of fell off the radar for a while until recently. With Strega, the second book in the series, I am back to Burke and this time I think I'll stick with him for a while.

Burke is an unlicensed private eye working the mean city streets. Although he has something of a moral code, he is also a scammer and petty crook who's done time and could easily be doing it again. In Burke's world, there are the citizens (the "regular" folk who are law-abiding) and the street-wise, who exist on the fringes. Burke is clearly in this second class as are most of his acquaintances.

In Strega, Burke is drafted by the title character to obtain a photograph. This Polaroid of her young nephew documents an act of pedophilia; she feels that if she can destroy the photo in front of the boy that he will begin to recover from the trauma. For Burke, this is a needle in a haystack sort of case, but he takes it on, motivated primarily by the promise of big money (and some not-so-subtle threats). His search will take him into the seedy world of child pornography.

The supporting characters in the Burke books are both a strong point and a weakness. On the one hand, they make the story more interesting; on the other hand, they are generally so off-beat that they can take away from the gritty realism: we have Max the deaf-mute killer giant, the Prof who constantly speaks in rhyme, Mama Wong the restaurant owner who is almost a stereotype and Michelle the transvestite prostitute with a heart of gold.
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