As a huge Andrew Vachss fan who would love to adopt his main man, Burke (and "make his pain go away" - I'll take Pansy too!), I never thought I would see the day when I would give one of this author's novels a below average rating. But, hey...we all have off days/months/years. "Footsteps of the Hawk" is the eighth consecutive Burke book I have read and the only one I am not enthused about - not the usual 5 Star read, in other words. I will continue on, however, gobbling-up the series in order until there is no more...and then will wait until Mr. Vachss is kind enough to supply a new novel for those of us who need a fix.
"Footsteps of the Hawk" features two rogue cops with individual agendas. They both dedicate too much of their valuable time searching for Burke. With these folks, five minutes would be too much time! They actually know where to find him...occasionally, and won't get off his back. Detective Belinda Roberts, who can be extemely seductive when she wants to be, (Burke sees right through her, of course), wants our man to arrange a jail break to free a guy accused of a series of grisley murder/rapes. She swears to the con's innocence. Don't they all? Detective Jorge Morales comes accross as a major psycho who has a jones for Burke....one that makes him want to eliminate Burke permanently. He is fixated, one might say. He is also ugly and out of control...beneath an obsessively controlled facade. Ready to explode. Could Morales have "done" the women?
The novel is set in early 1990s NYC, just after Mayor Guiliani came to office with the intent to clean up the City's mean streets. (Hah!) For those who have not met Burke before - and here is definiterly not the place to make his acquaintance - he is a 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. He is a survivor. He's also a standup guy....a righteous man.
P. I. Burke, as always, is the narrator. And the narrative, at times, goes off on a tangent, like Burke's thought processes. This occasional stream of consciousness has always been extremely effective and enhances the detective's persona. However, here Vachss wanders off way too much and his usual tight writing style suffers for it. The storyline is much too convoluted, and even Vachss' usually strong cast of characters cannot shore-up this piece of fiction enough to make it more enjoyable.
Actually, there is one scene that is excellent, featuring Mama Wong and her granddaughter Flower. Mama is group doyenne and mother, of sorts, to Burke's "real family" - a Chinese Jewish mother and restaurateur. She "keeps her prices high and the ambiance foul to discourage yuppies," cares for the gang and holds Burke's stash. She is teaching calligraphy to the little girl who is copying an ancient haiku:
"the ferret hunting
eyes on the ground, never hears
footsteps of the hawk."
Best part of the novel.