Just finished “Another Life,” the 18th and final book in Andrew Vachss series of urban noir about the man called Burke. The book is from 2008, but I just reached the end of the series.
It’s a gritty and not particularly “Christian values” kind of series. I wouldn’t recommend it for just anyone. But I became enthralled with the world Vachss created in the heart of the Big Apple, and with the style in which he wrote.
The plot of nearly every book deals in some way with the abuse of women and children. In real life, both Vachss and his wife are crusaders in this arena. As an attorney, Vachss exclusively represents children and youth, and he founded The National Association to Protect Children. Some heart-wrenching stories, no doubt from Vachss’s real-life cases, creep into the novels. Burke has pretty much a zero tolerance policy for anyone who abuses women or children.
The plot of “Another Life” involves finding a baby abducted from an Arab billionaire (who is also quite a pervert). In this finale, Vachss tried to reference many things from previous books, but it felt a bit clunky. Plus, there was quite a bit more “preaching” than in most books. Henning Mankell masterfully closed out his Inspector Wallander series (12 books) by bringing into the story nearly every major character from the series. But for Vachss, it just didn’t work very well.
Nevertheless, I loved the series and will miss Burke and his most fascinating “family”–Max the Silent, the Mole, the Professor, Michelle, Terry, Clarence, the Gateman, Wesley, and Mama. Not to mention Burke’s deadly dogs, Pansy and Daisy. A few books took Burke outside of New York City and away from his family (none of whom are related by blood). But those were the least interesting (to me) books, and I always welcomed when he returned to the city and his regular table at Mama’s.
Vachss has written several other books since concluding the Burke series, including a book about Wesley, a legendarily dangerous man who appears in or is talked about in nearly every Burke book. I’ll probably tackle that book next. He also wrote a book about a criminal named Cross, about whom Vachss has written a number of excellent short stories. I’m a fan of Cross, so if Vachss chooses to write a series about Cross, I’ll most definitely tag along.