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Pain Management: A Burke Novel Paperback – Oct 8 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (Oct. 8 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375726470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375726477
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 259 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #524,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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By frumiousb on Nov. 29 2002
Format: Paperback
I think that _Blue Belle_ was the first Vachss novel that I tried, and after reading that I ripped through his subsequent novels with a sense of discovery and pleasure. To be honest, I lost that interest and amazement a number of books ago. While the first book set in Oregon gave me a glimmer of new hope, this book really isn't there either.
A lot of the problem is that what made Burke so interesting in the first few books was the very real tension between light and dark in the character. He was constantly in balance, and the nastiness made for a really refreshing read after all the weaker characters that you find in detective novels today. Unfortunately, Burke has been around too long, and he's just too much a defender to really believe in the Dark Knight anymore. He's taken on too many good causes and acted too much as protector of the helpless. Good thing in a person, less good if you want to keep the tension of someone strung between good and evil. I'm sure that the continuing novels serve Vachss' not-so-hidden agenda of educating his audience, but they just aren't as interesting to read at this point.
I'm a little troubled with myself for writing this kind of review, as I recognize that there are larger issues with these books than a good escapist read. I applaud Vacchs' determination in the work he does for children and I think he's chosen a nearly ideal vehicle for getting his messages out.
I just wish that I had the same compulsion to read Burke novels as I did with the first.
Anyways, this book (Burke tries to ignore his problematic relationship with Gem, while taking on the case of a 16-year old runaway) is well-written and will probably appeal. Still worth a read, in any case.
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Format: Hardcover
Andrew Vachss has to be an interesting individual. You get the idea that Burke, the main character in his novels, is a somewhat nastier version of himself. Burke is a shadowy figure, with only one name (only one was given when he was an orphan) and a mysterious, cloudy, bitter view of the world. He works around the edges of things, making money on the black market, specializing in being untraceable and invisible, or almost. He is almost completely uninterested in the fate of people he doesn't know, and for the most part he's pretty cold. He has a real hatred for criminals who exploit children.
In this outing, he's gone to ground in Portland Oregon. This is a departure for Vachss, who's set almost all of his books in New York City. He bounces around town, establishing a "rep" so that someone can hire him to do something. Eventually a troubled father contacts him, looking for his daughter. Burke agrees to look, and does so with his usual disregard for rules, animosity towards authority figures, and dark, mysterious methods. When he finds the girl, the answers are not at all what you were expecting, satisfying though they are. There's a whole interlude where Burke helps a woman who steals drugs for the chronically ill, and it's from this side-plot that the book gets its title.
I liked the story, about as much as I usually do with Vachss. Everything's very dark (I don't think I could read two of these in a row without contemplating suicide) and murky, and the structure of the book is strange, too. For those who aren't familiar, Vachss has veered between numbering his chapters and not bothering. They're anywhere between a couple of lines and a page or two of text, very short, very choppy. The author seems to just only write part of the story, several lines of dialog, and expect the reader to fill in the rest.
Given that, this is a good book.
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Format: Paperback
Burke is laying low in Oregon. He's not in his element (New York), and this affects "Pain Management" as it affected "Down in The Zero." For me, a Burke story works best when the villain inspires a gut-deep flash of pure HATRED. I didn't get that fix this time. Also, just the words "New York" carry a seediness integral to the mood of Vachss' work.
Under an alias, Burke agrees to locate a well-heeled hippie's daughter. Things about her disappearance don't add up, and Burke encounters some locals who may or may not help him. They also may or may not be milking him for their own cause - getting pain meds to those in greatest need despite America's short-sighted treatment policies. These two plotlines never really merge. The daughter's family bears a secret that caused her to take off, but it's...well, a more "esoteric" reason than molestation. On the plus side, Vachss offers some intelligent, sympathetic young characters. He reminds us that everyone has the potential to be both Cain AND Abel.
Burke's usual anger and vigilance fall short of his melancholy. Things with Gem are decaying, and this almost becomes a distraction from the plot. His woman troubles don't end there; Ann O. Dyne is the most annoying girl Burke has dealt with since Fancy ("Down in The Zero") or Nadine ("Choice of Evil"). She's not stupid, just annoying. Flood, Blossom and Belle are still the top-tier Burkettes.
Vachss' effort to broaden the scope of issues in Burke novels is commendable. However, it doesn't play to Burke's strengths. Baby Boy Burke is a conman first and a killer first-and-a-half. "Pain Management," while thought-provoking, didn't hit me as hard as earlier works. Burke has the blues six feet deep, and the only effective remedy is to get back to New York and take it out on the lowest of the low. With "Only Child," I hope to see How Burke Got His Groove Back.
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