CHOICE OF EVIL
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard / 336 pages / 16 May 16, 2000
If you don’t recognise the name Andrew Vachss, you have been deprived of some of the richest narrative ever produced. There is no stronger voice in fiction today. No author maintains the tight, tense atmosphere Vachss creates with every word. Certainly, no one can match his portrayal of the grim, brutal realities of life beneath the polished surface of civilisation, and, considering the sorry state of our world, that is a grim picture indeed.
Choice of Evil — like all of Vachss’ novels — is an exhausting experience. It compels absolute commitment, both in its unbreakable control over your attention, and the investment of your emotions. All of Vachss’ work has an almost hypnotic quality that will push you on when the scenes seem too horrifying to bear.
Vachss’ prose is the word stripped bare. What remains is raw nerve.
Burke, the lead character in most Vachss’ novels, has returned to face another threat that he won’t — no, can’t — ignore. The cold shadow who appeared first in Flood has now assembled his street “family” to root out the ones responsible for his woman’s death in a drive-by shooting. Before it is all over, he will be forced to confront the return of a brother long gone and an attachment beyond understanding.
Can he stop a dead man blazing a path of murder? Can he convince the city that the killer is not the ghost, the legend, they believe in, but a human? And what if he’s wrong?
Just another nightmare in the endless trial that is Burke’s life; more pain to store deep within the core of humanity that survival has driven beneath his icy, untouchable exterior. At times, Burke seems more unfeeling than an artificial intelligence, but the truths inside him burn white-hot, and nothing is more likely to ignite his hatred than sexual predators who feed upon children. It isn’t safe to be a “baby-raper” and to be known to Burke; only Burke is going to emerge alive. Not that the system left much of him alive. Not that it’s going to get another chance to kill him.
This trace of the supernatural is new territory for Burke and Vachss, but it is just another complication for both. The driving issue remains the same: there is no room in this world for both pedophiles and people. How very true.
(Yes, if you’ve ever wondered why I harp on protecting children, Vachss is the man who seared my eyes open. Permanently.)
All of Vachss’ work is disturbing. The atrocities uncovered are sickening enough to haunt your dreams and stay in your mind long after you wish they would lose their impact. They won’t fade though, and the worst of it is that it has all happened. These are the kind of cases he faces every day in his law practice. It’s an ugly world, full of pain. Just don’t kid yourself that it doesn’t exist.
If this is all news to you, if you haven’t been introduced to the master of dark realism, take advantage of this foray into the supernatural as your initiation. Then, go back to the beginning of the Burke series and read every one, so you will know the history that made the “family.” And, so you will know what dangers await.