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With the possible exception of James Ellroy, Andrew Vachss is the mystery writer with the darkest heart and the most troubled soul. Like his 10 other books about the enigmatic outlaw private eye called Burke, Choice of Evil deals with unpleasant subjects--ritual murder, pedophilia, sexual deviance--the full force of which are never dampened by attempts at tact or taste. Vachss is not an author to look away from the nasty, or try to soften any of life's lowest blows.
That said, his latest does start off on a light note when Burke's giant mastiff, Pansy, is grabbed in a police raid. Burke and his motley crew of helpers--people with names like Mole, Crystal Beth, and Max the Silent--stage a raid on the animal shelter, and in a zany scene worthy of Lawrence Block or Donald Westlake, set free a herd of caged canines. All too soon, however, darkness descends as Crystal Beth--Burke's main squeeze and an activist for abused women--is killed at an outdoor rally, apparently by someone who hates homosexuals. Following this atrocity, a vigilante calling himself Homo Erectus declares war on gay bashers, and also on pedophiles who seek to link their cause to gay rights. Burke is hired to find this vigilante and keep him safe before the cops nab him.
Mentioning pedophilia to Burke is like waving a red flag at a bull: he can (and does) go on for many pages about this particular evil as he and a friendly lesbian dominatrix link Homo Erectus to a supposedly long-dead killer from Burke's own past.
Urban nightmares have been Vachss's stock-in-writing-trade since his debut 14 years ago with the extraordinary Flood. His 11th Burke novel is more nightmare than most, a dizzying shapeshifter of a tale that speeds suspense, vengeance, retribution, magic, bizarre sex play, characters old and new and icicle-pointed prose past the reader in a near blur. After the customary preludeABurke loses his apartment and must move with his dog to BrooklynAthe action proper begins. The outlaw PI is hired by a group of gay activists to find a vigilante, the self-proclaimed Homo Erectus (HE), who is wiping out gay-bashers around the city; the activists plan to spirit him to safety. Too soon, the case complicates immenselyAfor Burke but also for readers. Burke's lover was killed a while back in a drive-by shooting of gay protesters. Was HE involved? Why is HE, whom Burke contacts through the Net, so obsessed with Wesley, the stone killer apparently blown up some time ago? Has Wesley returned from the dead? What does the lesbian dominatrix aiding Burke in his search for HE really want? Into this plot mesh, Vachss weaves cameos by nearly all the series regularsAMax the Silent, Mole the technogeek, Strega the witch, etc.Abut anyone new to the books will weep at trying to make sense of the relations between them. Vachss's excesses strut through the storyAthe elliptical narration, the ranting against pederasts, the psychosexual melodrama ("She licked the blood off... sucked until she came, spasming... "). The plot whips here, there and everywhere, including into extensive but only tangentially relevant flashbacks, via computer messages from HE, of the killer's kidnapping of a girl. Like a furiously spun hand-cranked generator, this angry novel spits out a few sparks, but not enough to distract readers from the real show: that of a talented writer sliding toward self-parody.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
A rally in Central Park to protest against gay bashing encounters a murderous drive-by resulting in five people down and two dead. Read morePublished on Feb. 10 2001 by Midwest Book Review
I decided to read this because I am a fan of Maggie Estep, and she is a fan of Vachss. The story line sounded interesting, and although I am unfamiliar with the characters in his... Read morePublished on Dec 28 2000 by D. N. Oliveira
A fast-paced and dark descent into a fascinating story. When Burke's bisexual girlfriend is killed at a gay rights rally, he vows to find the culprit. Read morePublished on Aug. 28 2000
Any book by Vachss is part of a crusade against the exploitation of children, sexually or otherwise. That is a worthy cause, and in addition, the books are good. Read morePublished on Aug. 10 2000 by T. Bekken
Andrew Vachss creates the truest, most three-dimensional characters in fiction, people whose emotions are real and whose language is expressive. Read morePublished on July 27 2000 by terri nolan
Andrew Vachss has a gift for exposing the ugliness masked under pretty gilding, and the glory of love hidden by hard exteriors. Read morePublished on July 18 2000
Vachss never fails to deliver a powerful story built to bowl the reader over. CHOICE has a multi-layered and complex plot that builds on the story of bisexual Crystal Beth, first... Read morePublished on July 12 2000 by tina h.
For whatever reason, this author's fiction has been steadily declining in quality for about half a decade, and this latest Burke novel to appear in paperback continues the... Read morePublished on July 7 2000 by Rory Coker