A Dead End or a New Beginning?
Few literary characters are as remarkable or memorable as Andrew Vachss's indomitable antihero, Burke, a career criminal who kills with ease but has a huge soft spot in his heart for kids and dogs. In Vachss's latest effort, Dead and Gone, Burke is in more trouble than ever, which is saying a lot for a man who lives on the fringes of society and often looks death in the face.
It starts when Burke agrees to act as middleman for the ransomed return of a kid who was kidnapped a decade before. The child was only four when he was taken from his Russian immigrant parents, and the case, while still open, has long been cold. Burke takes every precaution in arranging the trade, but when it comes time to make the actual swap, he finds himself the victim of an unexpected ambush. His beloved dog, Pansy, is shot down in a hail of bullets, and Burke himself is shot several times -- once in the face -- and left for dead.
Days later, Burke awakens in a hospital with part of his brain shattered and his face altered so much by the bullet's impact that he's unrecognizable. But while he may be weak and disoriented, he has enough of his wits to remember who he is and that someone tried to kill him. Feigning a memory loss and pretending to be weaker than he is, Burke gradually rebuilds his strength and escapes from the hospital, eventually hooking up with his usual cadre of "family."
Swearing revenge, Burke sets out to find the man responsible for the ambush. At first he focuses on the only fact he has: that the killer knew and used Burke's greatest weakness -- endangered children -- to lure him into the trap. Several deaths, a score of dead ends, and a cross-country trip later, Burke finally solves the mystery and finds his man. But the outcome is one that no one -- particularly Burke -- could have foreseen or even imagined.
Once again mixing a thriller plot with social commentary, Vachss expands on the Burke legend in a whole new way. With a dozen books already out in this series, one might think the character of Burke is at risk of getting stale. But with Dead and Gone, Vachss finds a way to take the character and the stories in a totally new direction, one that is sure to keep fans delighted and devoted for many books to come.