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Strega: A Burke Novel [Paperback]

Andrew Vachss
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 30 1996 Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
Andrew Vachss's implacable private eye has a new client, Strega. She wants Burke to find an obscene photograph—and that search will take him into the ocean that flows just beneath the city, an ocean whose currents are flesh and money, the anguish of children and the pleasure of twisted adults. It is a place that Burke can visit only at the risk of his sanity and his life. But between the power of Strega and his own sense of justice, there is no turning back.

In Strega one of our most acclaimed crime writers gives us a thriller that might have been imagined by Dante. For this is a tour of hell with no stops left out, conducted by a novelist who writes with the authority of the damned.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In his first novel, Flood, attorney-turned-novelist Vachss introduced Burke, the ex-con investigator who's not averse to working either side of the law. The book captured the brutal atmosphere of New York's underbelly. This modern-day Robin Hood returns to that seamy world, complete with a merry band that includes a mute Mongolian strongman, a weird genius who lives in a junkyard, a transvestite prostitute and an intimidating dog named Pansy. Hired by a strangely alluring Mafia princess calling herself Strega ("witch" in loose translation ), Burke must find a certain photograph of a child forced into a sex act. Plunged into the world of kiddie porn, he wreaks havoc on the perverts, pimps and pedophiles he despises, the true "bad guys" in his view of things. Despite its action and fast pace, the book is less compelling than the author's first, lapsing into a sort of predictability and short on the pulsing energy a thriller must sustain. 50,000 first printing.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Streetwise and otherwise smart ex-con Burke narrates this second journey ( Flood ) through New York's garish underworld. The tough, unlicensed private investigator and his memorable cohorts work outside the law, but physically hurt only the true scum: street and subway punks, dope dealers and child abusers. With the help of Max the Silent (deaf-mute Chinese muscle), Michelle (fabulous-looking pre-transsexual hooker), Mole (thick-glassed demolition genius), Immaculata (sympathetic Vietnamese psychotherapist), and Pansy (malevolent Italian guard dog), Burke searches for a kiddie porn picture that will salvage the sanity of a cherubic six-year-old boy. This story fairly crackles with intensity, and the TV/p.i.-type narrator fuels the excitement with wry asides, gangster-wary movements, and cautious self-assurances. Great reading. Rex E. Klett, Anson Cty. Lib., Wadesboro, N.C.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Atmosphere is not enough June 13 2003
By harsil
This book certainly has all the noir atmosphere and gritty authenticity that Vachss is known for, but in other respects it's not all that strong. The plot here is very thin; for all its brevity, the book is bulked up to a certain extent with a lot of peripheral stories and vignettes, which, while often fascinating in themselves, feel a little too much like filler. This feeling is reinforced by the extensive description of actions toward an end: getting in the car, driving up the West Side Highway, going and getting the dog...
Other elements contribute to this sense of flaccidity. The character of Strega is not really sufficiently developed, and her psychology is not very convincing. Vachss's secondary characters - the Mole, Max the Silent, Michelle - are always fun, but they tend to border on parody; and while I always enjoy them in themselves - especially Max - Vachss flirts with the risk of undermining his credibility with their over-the-top portrayal.
The net result is a lack of the tension that is what a book like this is supposed to be about. There's really very little suspense, and while I will continue to follow the series for at least another book or two, I'll be hoping for a bit more of a payoff.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A tour that you might not want to go on... Nov. 26 1997
By A Customer
In Strega, Mr. Vachss has written one of the great works of modern noir. Many people can find fault with it's depiction of New York's assorted demons (from pimps to child pornographers) or the sometimes crudeness of the language. IT'S NOIR!!! It's also the noir of today. It would be nice if the harshest thing a woman could be called was a whore or the worst crime was murder in todays society. They're not and Mr. Vachss's avenging angel (?) Burke lives and breathes in the darkest of the underbelly. In this novel, he is hired to find a picture. I won't even tell you of what so's not to offend delicate sensibilities. Crawling into the muck with him are his faithful comanions, the Prof (or Prophet), the Mole, and Max The Silent (one of my favorite characters in a looooong time). As he delves further he finds himself deeply intertwined with Strega, the woman who has hired him. (Strega is the Italian term for a sexual witch. You do the math) Once again not for the kids or the faint of heart. Like noir? Get this book. Easily offended? Read The Bridges of Madison County and SHUT UP!!! I may be reading too many hard boiled novels. Ya think?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Vachss at his best Dec 13 2000
While later on in this series he takes an unfortunate turn into action novel territory (from which he's slowly recovering), this is probably the best book in the whole series. If you're looking for the hardest noir out there, this is the farthest you'll get before having to raid the small presses. This comes after "Flood" in the chronology, although I don't think it's necessary to read that novel first (although it too is quite good.) "Strega" is not a wonder of the English language, but it is razor sharp in terms of characterization and visualization. Vachss doesn't think much of himself as a writer, but here he shows he has chops. His spare descriptions are vivid. It should be noted, however, this book is not for the weak of stomach. It's not gory so much see more of the evil side of humanity in this book than you ever want to in real life, let me put it that way. Not a beach read, but an excellent book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A manual of the truest of evil... Nov. 6 1997
By A Customer
Mr. Vachss has practically written a manual to monsterdom with Strega. As it stands, Strega is a small chapter in true horror--- not just fictional crime. Although laced with his short, sometimes crude sentencing, it punches hard and leaves you wondering if Mr. Vachss could possibly be Burke, the main, and eerie character himself. Max, the silent giant, gives you chills as he snaps bones, then slips between the shadows like a shark. The Mole, a eccentric junkyard whiz. Every character has been well thought out--- again, leaving you to wonder... Strega leaves you scared.., fearing who that sweet old lady across the street really is... Why does she stay up all night, and what are those sounds? Strega.., definately brings out a horrific feeling, but it's one that everybody should be aware. Vachss is willing to do what most won't.., make a stand against the truest of all evil. He did amazingly well with Strega.
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This book definitely held my interest and had a number of qualities that I like in a crime novel - tough characters, a moral direction, gritty urban scenes, a clear conclusion, etc. The reason I only gave it 4 stars is that I didn't feel that the author did a very good job of character development on the main character or some of the supporting characters. I also found the scene descriptions to be less vivid in terms of what the surroundings were like than they could have been. In other words, an interesting story, but one not presented as well as some other authors (Pelecanos, Turow, Leonard) might have done.
I plan to read at least one more Vachss book before I decide to continue with his work or move on to other authors.
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Set in New York City in the 8o's, in this hard-boiled plot about Child Pornography, we get a good sense of the realism behind the criminal mind and behavior as well as a realistic graphic depiction of the darker side of New York City.
I guess my big problem with the main character Burke is that he is such a self-righteous goodie two-shoes as are his dysfunctioanl band of cohorts cut from the pages of Doc Savage and Smiley's People. His heart of gold meshed with his criminal background doesn't seem to cut real for me.
The ending too, was a bit dissappointing and not completely shocking since there are plenty of precursors to let you know there is something wrong with Strega. I think alot more could have been done with it.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars another classic
Andrew Vachss is a great writer and a crusader for children's rights.
Published on Dec 2 2003 by Raegan Butcher
5.0 out of 5 stars Vachss' Best Burke
Strega is perhaps the pinnacle of Vachss' Burke novels. Lean, taut, poetic, dark and sharp. If I had to keep only one book from the series, this would be it.
Published on Jan. 3 2003 by David Nelson
5.0 out of 5 stars Vachss and Burke at Their Best
As a mystery writer with my debut novel in its initial release, I've always considered STREGA as Andrew Vachss's best book. This novel is the most noirish of the Burke novels. Read more
Published on Aug. 1 2001 by Kent Braithwaite
5.0 out of 5 stars Watch out for the witch
The opening scene of "Strega," in which Burke stallks a stalker, is as effective as anything he's written. Read more
Published on May 15 2000 by Brian D. Rubendall
5.0 out of 5 stars Vachss--New York Haiku
Strega, my first Andrew Vachss novel has definitely not been my last. One of the most intriguing and philosophically stimulating authors I've read; a rare find in this genre. Read more
Published on Dec 9 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Another hard-boiled thriller from Vachss
Andrew Vachss takes the reader on another journey with his well-known cast of characters embroiled in another child pornography ring crime. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 1997
4.0 out of 5 stars The 2nd book in the Burke series
Ex-con Burke is hired by a mob princess for vengeance against
perverted day-care workers who scarred her friend's young son;
soon he finds himself under her spell, and... Read more
Published on Dec 31 1996
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