Pain Management: A Burke Novel Paperback – Oct 8 2002
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When last encountered (2000's Dead and Gone), career criminal Burke was on the rebound from a nearly successful assassination attempt, lying low and licking his wounds in Portland, Oregon. Severed from his connections in NYC, Burke survives on jobs--"violence for money" mostly--brokered by his live-in lover, Gem, an Asian beauty with a painful, larcenous past and a present to match.
At hand is a task Burke has done before: the recovery of a runaway, a 16-year-old girl named Rosebud. But Burke, an assassin with scruples, knows when things aren't right. Rosebud's father, Kevin, has a '60s-era contempt of "The Man" that doesn't jibe with his obvious wealth. Mother Maureen limps through life on pharmaceutical crutches. Younger sister Daisy and best friend Jennifer know things but won't share. As his search spirals out from Portland's mean streets, Burke encounters a mysterious young woman, Ann O. Dyne, who offers to help for a price. Her raison d'être is pain management--securing and dispensing medications vital to the terminally ill but held beyond their reach by a largely uncaring cadre of doctors, lawyers, and politicians. Eventually, of course, this plot line connects with Rose's whereabouts.
Andrew Vachss's MO here, as usual, is a mystery (Rosebud's disappearance) plus an actual cause célèbre (humane pain management). It's a risky formula that aims both to entertain and to enlighten. With its believably unbelievable characters, Vachss's spare noir, and steely pacing that counterpoints a bolt-upright climax, Burke's 13th outing is every bit as satisfying as the dozen that came before. --Michael Hudson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
Fans of Vachss will be thrilled to see that Burke is back in action. Presumed dead after an assassination attempt in Dead and Gone, Burke has gone into hiding in Oregon with his partner, Gem, who calls herself his wife. Biding his time in the hope of eventually making it back to New York, he takes on the task of tracking down a runaway teenage girl. As he scours the streets of New YorkBurke stumbles upon a clandestine society that illegally obtains prescription drugs for people suffering from extreme pain. Believing that they may ultimately hold the key to finding the runaway, he reluctantly agrees to help them obtain a stash of a revolutionary new drug. As Burke becomes drawn into the society's cause, what he finds instead is that he must deal with his own "pain management." Even though he has taken Burke out of his usual surroundings, Vachss has written another winner. For larger fiction collections. Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Of all the burke books this was the most dissapointing. Throughout the book no clues were given.Published on Oct. 17 2002
Vachss hasn't written a really good Burke novel since Down in the Zero. He has so much personally invested in child abuse that now he preaches in his novels rather than let his... Read morePublished on May 12 2002 by Toby Heaton
I have read all the Burke novels and this one by far is the worst. Yes he has gone outside NYC before but this was just plain BAD. Read morePublished on March 27 2002 by Brian Siegel
Vachss is my favorite writer. He always has a way to use Burke to reflect the parts of society that people don't know about or issues that we should be aware of while he keeps us... Read morePublished on Feb. 24 2002 by David Blackwell
Andrew Vachss' novel is a story of deep betrayal. Burke is an ex-con who escaped from New York and is now trying to live a life in Portland, Oregon as B. B. Hazard. Read morePublished on Feb. 16 2002 by Amazon Customer
Vachss has produced yet another insightful, enlightening work with his new Burke-series novel, Pain Management. Read morePublished on Jan. 22 2002 by Angel409
The prose is tight, it's really wonderful. Vachss is really getting to be an outstanding writer, in a technical sense. Read morePublished on Dec 2 2001