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Only Child [Paperback]

Andrew Vachss
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 14 2003 Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
It’s been years since Burke has been home, years since he’s seen his “family” and worked in the underbelly of New York City. Although his appearance has changed, his reputation grown dusty and his wallet thin, his skills and his crew remain razor sharp. So when he is contacted by a mob boss to investigate the murder of his illegitimate daughter, Vonni, Burke takes the job and begins searching for an unspeakably brutal killer.

Posing as a casting director looking for tomorrow’s stars, Burke reaches out to the high school students who knew Vonni, and may know the identity of the killer. Before long he unearths a perverse enterprise—a young director pursuing a brutal new type of cinema verité.

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Only Child + Choice of Evil: A Burke Novel
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Product Description

From Amazon

Andrew Vachss's series hero, an outlaw vigilante named Burke, is on the trail of the man who murdered the teenage daughter of a Mafioso whose secret affairs with a black woman and a gay crime boss make Tony Soprano's sub rosa relationship with his psychiatrist seem inconsequential. More accustomed to committing crimes than investigating them, Burke comes out of retirement and reunites with his New York family, a group of criminals who join him in a clever ruse to unmask the killer. The circuitous trail eventually leads to an underground filmmaker whose disturbing brand of noir vérité was responsible for the girl's death; as usual, Burke metes out vengeance with a steady hand. As usual, Vachss turns in a suitably dark, violent thriller with a strong narrative drive and an explosive conclusion. --Jane Adams --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

"Sherlock Holmes is dead," intones Giovanni, a New York Mafia boss who hires street criminal Burke-who's made a career of killing child murderers and molesters-to solve the murder of his illegitimate teenage daughter, Vonni. Indeed, the whole Vachss oeuvre (this is the 14th novel to feature the avenging angel Burke) is a reminder that Conan Doyle's fictional sleuth would be clueless in the violent, sordid world of today's hard-boiled mystery. Burke doesn't search for clues so much as extort them by combining street smarts, his formidable intelligence and a deeply rooted outrage at the victimization of the young. Burke's fans will be delighted that he's returned to his home turf-the gritty back streets of New York City-where he's welcomed into the bosom of his ragtag band of delinquent colleagues. The novel has a compelling plot line (like a police procedural without the police), but the narrative is far from seamless. There are a couple of false starts as Burke searches for something to occupy his time, and the references to earlier novels will probably baffle newcomers. More seriously, the elaborate ruse Burke executes to identify and trap the killer is barely credible. But the noirish prose (a man's eyes are "the color of old dimes") is a pleasure, and Burke is an antihero of the old school. Though it doesn't break new artistic ground for Vachss, the book is another harrowing glimpse of the urban underworld from an author who clearly knows his terrain and whose sympathy for the truly innocent-the children-is unstinting.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Try To Put It Down, I Dare You! Dec 3 2003
It is 4:30 in the morning.
Now that we have established that little fact, let me tell you a little bit about my reading habits. I have a library full of books. Heck, I work in a book store. I adore books. A nice little chunk of every day is spent reading something. Since my son was born almost a year ago, this reading mostly takes place at the foot of the stairs to my apartment while I draw on a pipe so the smoke won't offend anyone else in the house. I usually read in twenty to forty minute sessions, usually enough for a bowl or two of Vanilla Cavendish. After that I put the book down and go about my day (or night as it usually turns out). It is like my own little sanctuary, and that is where I leave it. There is a stack of books at the foot of the stairs I am currently working through. In the last year I have never brought a book back up with me to continue. There is always a good spot to put a book down, believe me. At least I thought so until I started Only Child today. I read while I smoked, then I came up to the living room and read while my wife watched TV, then I returned to the spot and smoked some more (at least with a pipe I am looking at lip and throat cancer rather than that lung stuff), followed by a stint in the rocking chair and finally finishing with a last smoke while the book raced to its conclusion. I am not a fast reader either. I tend to savor books. The closer this book got to the final pages, however, the faster I read. I read as I walked up and down the stairs. I read as I went to the kitchen for a soda. I just couldn't look away from this book. In my younger days, I might have read a book straight through, but age (and being an aging father) has caught up with me. Now it is an unknown experience. Until I started Only Child today.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Burke, Back in Town Aug. 6 2003
It took Andrew Vachss nearly two full novels to get his tarnished hero, the underworld figure Burke, back to his native New York from his exile on the West Coast. Burke's return is more than wlecome, for it pumps new life into a series that was growing somewhat stale heading into its 15th volume. Though bringing Burke home causes "Only Child" to start a little slow, it picks up the pace after about pasge 25, and is ultimately one of the better entries in the series.
This time out, Burke is hired by a closeted homosexual gangster to investigate the murder of his teenage daughter. Burke enlists his usual crew: The Mole, The Prof, Michelle, Mama, Max the Silent, etc., to help him track the killer. The investigation eventually leads to a video ring that is taping violent "reality" encounters featuring local teenagers.
Once again, Vachss has managed to mine the depths of human depravity to lend additional weight to his story. Crime novels simply don't get much grittier than this. Though some of his dialog still tends to be a bit over the top (the worst offenders this time out are the two lesbian porno queens), no other mystery writer working today writes with such cuttingly sharp prose or with a better feel for the streets.
Overall, "Only Child" is a winning entry in a veteran mystery/crime series.
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Vachss is a man true to his passion, standing up for the abused children of New York or wherever he is called to help and he is one of the most intelligent people I have met. He uses his intelligence to create a way to make everyday people aware of the abuse that exists, call attention to his cause by using the written word and creating Burke, an instrument of revenge, seeker of the truth survivor of the night.
Stepping into Vachss' dark, raw world is like going to a place where I would not be able to survive. He takes us there for a reason: weaving true life horrific events so the reader can briefly and safely see his day to day world with the abuse raging in all its horrifying reality.
The new Burke book, number thirteen, titled Only Child, signals the return of the hero Burke. Upon returning to New York after a long absence and having recovered from injuries sustained in an attempt on his life, he must now cope with the loss of his love Pansy. Burke assembles the usual crew to investigate the murder of a Mafia man's sixteen-year-old love child. The fast paced, sharp dialogue, twists, and eventually the path Burke's investigation takes brings to mind the one of the most recent video horror of The Bums Fights. So weaving Burke's investigation with the truths that we, the citizens of the world know nothing of, Vachss takes us to a darker place indeed! The story delivers with his trade mark bluntness and leaves the reader coping with thoughts upon thoughts of bruised battered murdered children......and what can we do about this.
I appreciate Vachss' single-mindedness, his raw story telling, the depth of his characters, their hurt damaged souls, still able to empathize feel and lash out trying to right a wrong, payback for so much damage.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Watch me, watch me close." Dec 2 2002
When it becomes clear at the end of 'Pain Management' that Burke has decided to return home to New York many readers breathed a sigh of relief. Burke's pain at his losses had created a world that was too nightmarishly bleak, even for Andrew Vachss. If the silent crusader had remained, the call of the zero would simply have become too strong.
So the first part of 'Only Child' is a homecoming, one as joy filled as a Vachss story is ever allowed to get. Burke's family - Michelle the transsexual, Mama, the Professor, the Mole, Clarence, Max, Terry, and the countless others that Burke has helped all reappear. It is unusual to speak of love in the dark side of the city that Vachss' characters inhabit, but it is there, ready to lend one of the shadow knight all the strength he needs.
The case Burke becomes a reflection of Burke's one need for family. Two men, both important in the organized crime world come to Burke with a grim problem. One of them had and interracial daughter at a time that is organization could not tolerate that behavior. He gave in to his fears and detached from the woman, and now, 18 years later she is dead, stabbed repeatedly and the police are useless. Giovanni doesn't know if the killing was a sex crime or an attempt at getting to him, but he wants revenge. And he and his lover want Burke to find the killer.
The story turns into an intricate piece of detection, which is rare for a Vachss novel. In order to penetrate the world the girl lived in, Burke must hatch scheme after scheme, including an outstanding effort as a casting director. This is really one of Vachss more interesting plots, a shade less noir than usual. Think of it as an anti-heroic procedural.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!
This book is the greatest! The author's critique of movie worshippers is the best ever.
Published on April 10 2004 by Roger Arkin
3.0 out of 5 stars Better Than the Last, But still Flawed
Andrew Vachss lost the thread of his Burke books about five years ago. What he needs is a good editor again to tell him what's working and what isn't. Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2004 by Ann M Eadie
5.0 out of 5 stars "Classic" Burke
This is a return to the sort of Burke story that got me hooked on the series in the first place. It was great to have Burke reconnected with his New York "family". Read more
Published on Aug. 9 2003 by Stew J. Weldon
5.0 out of 5 stars the hardest writing author in the world
Andrew Vachss is a superb writer and a hell of a human being. I've watched his style evolve from his 1st published novel, FLOOD, to his recent books and his writing just keeps... Read more
Published on July 22 2003 by Raegan Butcher
5.0 out of 5 stars Vachss Fascinates ...
because each book shows the reader the insidious new trends that prey upon us all. Only Child exposes us to the vicious new world of "reality film" -- it's Fight Club meets Candid... Read more
Published on Dec 30 2002 by Gary Fordham
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Splendid Read from Andrew Vachss
_Only Child_ is full of all the wonderful things we love in the Burke series. Best not to plan anything else for the day you begin reading - Once this book is opened it will stay... Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2002 by SoapSnob
5.0 out of 5 stars Guess who's back?
In the mid 1800s, Gustave Flaubert described France as a place where "the banal, the facile, and the foolish are invariably applauded, adopted, and adored. Read more
Published on Nov. 4 2002 by Belinda Kameron
4.0 out of 5 stars Burke Reconfigured
Reunited with his "family", in New York, Burke looks different (more like the author), but the action is back. Read more
Published on Nov. 1 2002 by John Bowes
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Outstanding Installment in the "Burke" Series
Mr. Vachss has done it again ... focused a novel on an issue/phenomenon years, perhaps decades, before the media or the general public become aware of its existence (previous... Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2002 by Reader
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