cover image Hard Candy

Hard Candy

Andrew H. Vachss. Alfred A. Knopf, $17.95 (241pp) ISBN 978-0-394-57791-3

At the onset of Vachss's fourth street-smart novel featuring unlicensed New York private eye Burke, word is out that the ex-con PI has become a gun-for-hire. Besides coping with this crazy rumor, Burke contends with two figures from his youth who suddenly turn up. One of them, Candy, now a miniskirted call girl fond of whips and leashes, wants Burke to rescue her teenaged daughter from a cult in Brooklyn; the other, Wesley, an Uzi-toting hit man, already has the cult's leader, Train, in his sights. When Burke learns that the cult safehouse is a baby-breeding operation, vigilante-style justice ensues. Burke's turf--the sleazy underbelly of New York, a world of street kids, drug pushers, mafiosi and crooked lawyers--springs to life in cinematic scenes. Fans of Vachss's previous hard-core crime fiction ( Flood ; Bluebelle ) will find familiar characters, among them Michelle, the transsexual hooker; Max the Silent, a mute Tibetan martial arts strongman; and electronics whiz Mole, who lives in a bunker under a Bronx junkyard. 40,000 first printing. (June)