Choice of Evil (Burke Series #11)by Andrew Vachss
When his girlfriend, Crystal Beth, is gunned down at a gay rights rally in Central Park, Burke, the underground man-for-hire and expert hunter of predators, vows vengeance. But someone beats him to the task: a shadowy killer who calls himself Homo Erectus and who seems determined to wipe gay bashers from the face of the earth. As the killer's… See more details below
When his girlfriend, Crystal Beth, is gunned down at a gay rights rally in Central Park, Burke, the underground man-for-hire and expert hunter of predators, vows vengeance. But someone beats him to the task: a shadowy killer who calls himself Homo Erectus and who seems determined to wipe gay bashers from the face of the earth. As the killer's body count rises, most citizens are horrified, but a few see him as a hero, and they hire Burke to track him down...and help him escape.
In Choice of Evil, Burke is forced to confront his most harrowing mystery: the mind of an obsessive serial killer. And soon the emotionally void method behind the killer's madness becomes terrifyingly familiar, reminding Burke of his childhood partner, Wesley, the ice-man assassin who never missed, even when the target was himself. Has Wesley come back from the dead? The whisper-stream says so. And the truth may just challenge Burke's very sense of reality. Expertly plotted, addictive, enthralling, Choice of Evil is Andrew Vachss' most haunting tale to date.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
A short while later, Burke is holing up in the home of his girlfriend, Crystal Beth, when she decides to attend a gay rally in Central Park. It turns out to be a fatal mistake: A drive-by shooting occurs, and Crystal Beth becomes one of two victims who die in the onslaught. Tortured with grief and fueled by a need for revenge, Burke takes a keen interest in a serial killer who starts racking up victims immediately after the drive-by, and who seems to be targeting anyone who has spoken or acted on a hatred for gays. The killer, who gives himself the moniker Homo Erectus in the manifestos he provides to the newspapers, quickly becomes a societal hero, and "H. E." is often spoken of reverently.
When a secret gay/lesbian group financed by an unknown benefactor hires Burke to find the killer, they claim that their only interest is in seeing the man escape from town and disappear unharmed. The killer's actions have had a resoundingly positive effect on the incidences of gay bashing, and the group recognizes the value of keeping him "out there" somewhere, even if he isn't actively seeking revenge. But Burke is wary of one member of the group, a very attractive woman named Nadine who attaches herself to him and his quest with a tenacity that's both spooky and puzzling. Yet she proves invaluable when she uses her own connections to provide Burke with some key evidence crucial to identifying Homo Erectus, so he keeps her involved, albeit at a safe arm's length.
After finding himself some new "unofficial" living quarters and ordering a new set of identification, Burke focuses all his attention on trying to smoke out Homo Erectus, whose killings have steadily escalated. H. E.'s protests take a turn when he starts campaigning against pedophiles who try to disguise themselves as gays. Then he concisely demonstrates his abhorrence of this group by killing dozens in one fell swoop when he blows up a plane carrying a group of pedophiles on a secret junket to the Far East.
Rumors are running rampant that the killer is the notorious and highly feared professional assassin Wesley, except that Wesley is supposed to be dead. Still, there are those who believe a mojo like Wesley's may come back in supernatural form to settle a karmic debt. Burke who knew Wesley better than anyone dismisses these speculations out of hand, but the killer's techniques do eerily resemble Wesley's, and there are indications that the killer has intimate knowledge of Wesley's life.
With the help of a cybergeek who attracts the killer's attention over the Internet, Burke finally establishes contact. What he learns then twists all his beliefs around, revealing a truth far more complex and disturbing than any he imagined. When Burke finally comes face-to-face with the killer, it provokes a startling and stunning showdown of the highest magnitude.
With a background that includes stints as a lawyer, a field investigator for the U.S. Public Health Service, and a social casework supervisor in New York City, Vachss is no stranger to the real-world horrors of child abuse and other crimes, and he makes no secret about using his writing as a social platform for his causes. He has created the perfect antihero in Burke, providing a vicarious outlet for the dark and vengeful thoughts that lurk in all of us. Vachss's stories are gritty, dark, and often painful but also compelling enough to get and hold one's attention. Like its predecessors, Choice of Evil is the perfect mix: a lesson to heighten public awareness cleverly disguised in a riveting tale that offers high entertainment and a satisfying sense of justice.
Fantasy & Science Fiction
"A gripping tale of evil, cruelty, retribution and love." -The Plain Dealer
"Choice of Evil is Vachss' darkest Burke yet, exploring man's propensity for savagery, ice-cold cunning and wearing thin the limits of sanity." -The Clarion-Ledger (Mississippi)
Read an Excerpt
From Chapter One
It was almost three in the morning when she'd called, so I was outside her apartment house in fifteen minutes. I didn't like the doorman eyeballing me more than once, but I didn't see a way around it either. If he thought it was unusual for someone to be calling at that hour, he didn't show it . . . just rang up and got the okay for me to enter the elevator.
She must have been right at the peephole--the door opened even as I raised my knuckles to rap. The rose lighting was back on. Otherwise, the place was shrouded. "Go sit down," she told me, standing aside.
I gave up trying to solve the mystery of her three chairs and just took the middle one, letting her play any way she wanted.
She looked ghostly, floating across the room toward me. Barefoot, in a gauzy white robe that wrapped her body--a frame, not a cover. She took the nearest open chair, reached over, and pulled mine around so we were facing each other.
"I believe you," she said.
"Which means . . . ?"
"I believe you wouldn't . . . do what you said. I believe you . . . Oh, never mind. Look, here it is, okay? She . . . asked around. Like you said. I don't know about this 'theory' of yours, but you're right about one thing--they have the men who did that drive-by."
"Found them, I should have said. They're dead. And one of the people killed in the crowd--you were right about that too. The police think it was murder. I mean, deliberate murder. The rest was only for . . . what do you call it? Camouflage? I don't know. But the cops say it was business. Professional business. They think they know who gave the order. That's what you want, right?"
"That's what I want."
"Well, I have it," she said.
"But you want to play with it first? Or you want me to place a fucking bid? What?"
"Why are you so . . . hostile?" she asked softly. "I've been nice to you. It was fun . . . flirting, right? I know you liked it."
"We've already been there," I told her.
"You really hate them, don't you?" she said, leaning so close I could feel her breath.
"Who doesn't?" I said, sloughing it off, staying clear of whatever was lightning-bolting around the rose-lit room.
"You should spend more time where I do," she said, an ugly undertone to her soft voice. "And you said to ask. You said it was okay. You told me to do it."
"What are you talking about?"
"My . . . friend. The cops. All that. It was easy, she said. They all . . . a lot of them anyway . . . they know you. Or about you, at least. I even know about those murders--the ones in the South Bronx."
"Jesus Christ, that's the kind of sorry two-bit rumor your pal came up with? That story's a fucking fossil."
"I know what you think," she said, sliding the gauzy robe off her shoulders. "You think I'm trying to get you to . . . admit something, right?"
"That's why you keep taking your clothes off? So I'll see you're not wearing a wire?" I laughed at her.
I could see her face flush. Or maybe it was just the reflected light.
"I'm just more . . . comfortable this way," she told me. "I don't like clothes. I don't like people to wear clothes. It's another thing to hide behind."
"Yeah, sure. You spend half your life in a gym, you've got a beef with clothes? You're more confident without your clothes, that's all. Because you're an overmatch against most everyone else that way."
"I'll bet I'd be with you."
"No contest," I acknowledged.
"You don't want to play at all, do you?"
"I'm not a player."
"What does that mean? You don't have sex unless you're in love?"
"No. It means I smoke cigarettes but I don't light them with sticks of dynamite."
"You don't trust me?"
"I'd have to upgrade a cubic ton to distrust you," I told her, keeping my voice level. "You got me over here because you said you had what I wanted. Instead of giving it to me, you start asking me about some murders I'm supposed to have committed. I tell you I don't want to fuck you," I said, dropping my voice, letting a harder tone bleed through, "you tell me I'm a liar. I told you before: Behavior is the truth. What's the game? I say: 'Sure, you've got a body that would get a rise in a morgue,' and you say, 'Well, you're not getting any of it'? Would that make you happy? Is that your game? Okay, I'll pay that much, if that's what it takes. You're a gorgeous woman."
"But . . . ?"
"But you can't get juice from marble," I told her.
"What does that mean?"
"How many different ways you want me to say it? You've got a stake in this. Not the same one Lincoln and those other guys have. Yeah, I know, you told me: You 'love' this guy. And you just want to protect him, right? Sure, fine. I'll buy it, that's what you want. And I played right along, didn't I? You think I'd turn him over to the cops for a pass on one of my own cases, then don't help. But you already did that, right? Checked me out. Found out some stuff. Enough to convince you that, whatever else I am, I'm not a rat. So here I am. And what do I get? Another strip show. More of your stupid teasing. And some questions about . . . bullshit crap that couldn't be your business."
From the Hardcover edition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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As has been said, "There is no other living American author with prose as razor-clean as Andrew Vachss.....Vachss is a Zen warrior with a pen." And he is also a warrior who explores the cruelest areas of life, whether it be pedophilia, ritual killing, sadism, or sexual deviance. He does this with no holds-barred; his words are startling, candid, often producing what some may call abhorrent but certainly frightening scenarios. Having said all of that CHOICE OF EVIL may well be his darkest Burke novel yet. There is a tad of levity at the onset when Burke's dog, Pansy, is arrested in a police raid, and the rescue involves releasing a clutch of yapping canines. But then the terror begins when Burke is hired to find and protect a vigilante calling himself Homo Erectus who has declared war on gay bashers. Just as the prose is razor sharp so is the narration by Phil Gigante, a veteran of some 70 audio books (including Burke stories). He delivers a forceful voice performance, made even more frightening by a clear, at times almost emotionless reading. While some less proficient readers might be tempted to give drama full throttle in some of the nightmare producing scenes, Gigante knows that in this case less is more. - Gail Cooke
Activist Crystal Beth felt strongly that she had to be at the gay rally in Central park though she was bisexual and her boyfriend private detective Burke objected. However, a drive-by shooter kills Crystal in what appears to be an attempt to destroy the rally. The police suspect Burke because of whom he is, but no evidence surfaces. Meanwhile, a serial killing vigilante, Home Erectus, begins a campaign to eradicate gay bashers and pediophiles. Law enforcement officials, much of the media and public want this self-appointed executioner stopped. Admirers of Homo Erectus hire Burke to safely bring him to them so they can keep their hero away from the cops. Though just starting his search, Burke is back in his element, the streets. CHOICE OF EVIL shows that Andrew Vachss remains one of the darkest writers of urban mysteries that exists. Burke retains his over the edge mentality that makes readers either love or loathe him. The current well written but grimy story line has the usual suspects, but clearly centers on Burke, who is a living time bomb who gives meaning to hell in Manhattan. Harriet Klausner