cover image Footsteps of the Hawk

Footsteps of the Hawk

Andrew H. Vachss. Alfred A. Knopf, $23 (237pp) ISBN 978-0-679-44500-5

The suburban sojourn of the Manhattan outlaw PI Burke in Down in the Zero didn't breathe any fresh air into this increasingly stale series; this eighth entry is the weakest yet. Instead of one memorable villain, Vachss gives us two forgettable ones-both cops, one a vengeful male, the other a calculating female-in a plot fractured in other ways as well as Burke must figure out which of the two is a serial killer before he's slain by one or the other. Most of the series' regulars, from the underground electronics whiz, Mole, to the mute martial arts expert, Max the Silent, show up to help out, though seemingly more for the sake of nostalgia than plot function, while a new supporting player, a young Italian boxer, serves mainly as an excuse for an elaborate but irrelevant subplot about his climb toward a title shot. As always, Vachss ties the plot into his bete noire, child abuse, but the connection seems arbitrary. In its final pages, the narrative at last achieves some tension as a naked and bound Burke confronts the killer; but it's too little, too late. Burke, through his constant complaining about humanity and the city (``New York may be a woman.... If she is, she's a low-class evil bitch.... I hate it all so much''), comes off less as the dark angel of righteous vengeance of his earliest outings than as an aging, kvetching curmudgeon. (Sept.)