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Choice of Evil: A Burke Novel [Paperback]

Andrew Vachss
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 16 2000 Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
When his girlfriend, Crystal Beth, is gunned down at a gay rights rally in Central Park, Burke, the underground man-for-hire and expert hunter of predators, vows vengeance.  But someone beats him to the task: a shadowy killer who calls himself Homo Erectus and who seems determined to wipe gay bashers from the face of the earth.  As the killer's body count rises, most citizens are horrified, but a few see him as a hero, and they hire Burke to track him down...and help him escape.

In Choice of Evil, Burke is forced to confront his most harrowing mystery: the mind of an obsessive serial killer.  And soon the emotionally void method behind the killer's madness becomes terrifyingly familiar, reminding Burke of his childhood partner, Wesley, the ice-man assassin who never missed, even when the target was himself.  Has Wesley come back from the dead?  The whisper-stream says so.  And the truth may just challenge Burke's very sense of reality.  Expertly plotted, addictive, enthralling, Choice of Evil is Andrew Vachss' most haunting tale to date.

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Product Description

From Amazon

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.

To absorb the full force of the Burke canon, read other books in the series: Safe House, Blossom, Blue Belle, and False Allegations. --Dick Adler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

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.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A good crime novel April 10 2002
By Uqob
Format:Paperback
As a stand alone novel, it is perhaps too heavy with references to previous novels but the disturbing nature of the story is strong enough to prevent those moments from becoming too distracting. The story is actual a mystery, as Burke (the protagonist) attempts to find the killer of his girlfriend Crystal Beth and discovers that her death is actually a great deal more horrific given who the murderer may be. The plot is not only an exploration of what kind of adult a State run (specifically New York) childcare department can produce but also the seamy criminal culture of pedophiles and serial killers. Be forewarned this book is not a comfortable read. Mr. Vacchs skill is enough that a great deal of the book is read with a fair amount of dread as one damaged character appears after another, with the character Burke being the axle of which this wonder-wheel of strange and unusual individuals revolve. So what's to like about this book? It's a crime genre novel and if you enjoy that kind of book it is well done and swimming with enough criminals and insinuated violence to make your skin crawl. The dialogue reads the way people speak so there is a flow that makes you the 3rd person in the scene, but there can be a bit of a struggle as characters interrupt each other's dialogue to express their own thoughts. In regard to the cast of characters, it's hard not to appreciate the loyalty Burke and his adopted street family share, but it's an uncomfortable appreciation given the nature of many of the relationships between the characters, most of them being practicing criminals. Read more ›
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not The Same Burke Feb. 26 2001
Format:Paperback
.. "Choice of Evil," though full of the urban misery and blues we've come to expect, doesn't pack the same punch. Granted, it would be hard to top "Sacrifice."
Burke's women either leave or die. So, Crystal Beth dies in what seems to be a drive-by at a gay pride rally. We get Burke the Sleuth, but not the Avenging Angel. The online search for the killer teases us with the possibility of Wesley's return..
What I miss in recent Vachss is the destruction of children as a plot element; lately it's left in the background as a short-hand device for character development. True to form, there's the Next Twisted Woman - a dominatrix named Nadine. their dialogue is a departure from the usual Burke-woman banter; Burke seems downright crotchety. His impatience with female posturing is at an all-time high. Nice to see Strega again, though. She still scares Burke 'cause she's a reminder that despite his resignation, he still desires...
As Vachss moves an aging Burke further away from ground-zero vengeance, he moves into Thomas Harris-style psychological intrigue. Give me the hellish terrain of "Sacrifice" and "Hard Candy." Reempower him as the bloody-handed avenger of the Children of The Secret.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A solid, but not great, outing for Vacchs Sept. 27 2000
Format:Paperback
The Burke series is generally a great one. Vacchs, an attorney who represents juveniles only, and who has a professional resume that proves he knows first-hand the horror that abused children experience, always generates an aura of reality in his writing. The cruelty to children depicted in the Burke books is truly disturbing, because you know as you read it that this stuff really goes on. Burke, a hard-bitten criminal, has enough redeeming qualities to make him a great anti-hero. Among those redeeming qualities are a sense of deep loyalty to his "family" -- the close friends he has chosen (and who have chosen him), who will stick together in the face of any adversity. The other major redeeming quality is his simmering fury directed at abusers of children. The two come together in this book after Burke's girlfriend is killed at a gay rally and he goes on the vengeance trail, which of course leads him into the child abuse underworld. The primary flaw in this novel is the strained dialogue between Burke and an important secondary character, Nadine, who is a gay domninatrix with a bizarre sexual fascination with Burke. His tough-guy posturing with her is more or less in character, but it grows tiresome by the half way point, and continues unabated from there. Nevertheless, Burke is always a good read. As one of the other reviewers points out, however, it is hard to follow all the characters unless you've read the other books. I'd start with the first and read them in order. There is a linear development of the characters and plot that will make the book much more enjoyable if you know it going in.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Decline Continues July 7 2000
Format:Paperback
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 decline. As has recently become usual, there's really no plot and the motivations of the supposed villains make no sense whatsoever. Even the time frame of the present novel makes no sense; references in a diary are essentially contemporary but we find toward the end of the novel that the diary must have been writen about 15 years before. The diary, by the way, is the best part of the novel, far more compelling than the (here purposeless) actions of Burke and his crew.
Vachss retains his distinctive, spare style; it's too bad he is apparently increasingly uninterested in providing content to go along with it.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A RAZOR SHARP NARRATION
As has been said, 'There is no other living American author with prose as razor-clean as Andrew Vachss.....Vachss is a Zen warrior with a pen. Read more
Published on Dec 30 2010 by Gail Cooke
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel of the twisted workings of human hearts
A rally in Central Park to protest against gay bashing encounters a murderous drive-by resulting in five people down and two dead. Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2001 by Midwest Book Review
5.0 out of 5 stars Not What I Expected
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 more
Published on Dec 28 2000 by D. N. Oliveira
4.0 out of 5 stars Spiralling into the light
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 more
Published on Aug. 28 2000 by "blissengine"
5.0 out of 5 stars a very important writer
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 more
Published on Aug. 10 2000 by T. Bekken
5.0 out of 5 stars magnificent characters live here
Andrew Vachss creates the truest, most three-dimensional characters in fiction, people whose emotions are real and whose language is expressive. Read more
Published on July 27 2000 by terri nolan
5.0 out of 5 stars No one better, ever.
Andrew Vachss has a gift for exposing the ugliness masked under pretty gilding, and the glory of love hidden by hard exteriors. Read more
Published on July 18 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Action and Unique Storytelling
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 more
Published on July 12 2000 by tina h.
3.0 out of 5 stars A good story in an ugly world
The story and plot are compelling as Burke faces his own demons, past nemesis, and present challenges to find the killer of gay-bashers. Read more
Published on June 22 2000
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