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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
5.0 out of 5 stars another classic Dec 2 2003
Andrew Vachss is a great writer and a crusader for children's rights.
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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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Vachss' Best Burke Jan. 3 2003
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.
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Vachss and Burke at Their Best Aug. 1 2001
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. It is well written and dark. Burke's world is a tough place, and one has to be tough to endure. The plot is strong and takes some surprising turns. The characters fit their purposes perfectly. If you can only read one book by Andrew H. Vachss, make it STREGA.
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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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