Burke, Vachss's popular underground PI, is nowhere to be found in this second collection (after Born Bad, 1994) of short stories from his creator's stiletto of a pen. Fans won't much mind: Cross, the mercenary crook who's so hard he makes tough Burke seem gooey, shows up in several entries, most notably in the swift and savage title novella, which sees the Chicago-based antihero and his crew break a young woman out of a Peruvian jail--strictly for financial reasons, of course. In this novella, as in most of Vachss's fiction, child abuse plays a pivotal role, and it's as often the author's moral outrage as it is compact plotting and sharp characterizations--both Vachss strengths--that provides the energy. In too many stories, Vachss relies on trick endings for that extra wallop (as in ""Mission,"" where a man confesses to murder in order to land behind bars and take vengeance upon imprisoned abusers), but he also takes some admirable chances, roaming afield for five (regrettably murky) tales set in a totalitarian future and collected as being from ""The Underground Series,"" and even one western (""Searcher""). Though many of these stories have appeared previously (and in an astonishing variety of venues, from Esquire to Amazon.com to the Swiss journal Das Magazin), they were all written recently, to be compiled into this book. With the Burke novels in general sliding downhill, it's good to see that Vachss can still rile and sting, especially via the ice man Cross and his deadly crew, who deserve to star in a full-length novel, and soon. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/06/1999 Release date: 09/01/1999 Genre: Fiction
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