Another Life by Andrew Vachss
In Another Life, Andrew Vachss brings down the curtain on his long-running crime series featuring Burke and his family of choice. A sniper ambush leaves the Prof, the only man Burke has called father, in need of serious medical attention that their usual underground resources can’t provide. Pryce, a man who does government work the government would never admit to, offers a deal to help: in exchange for aiding the Prof as well as creating a paper trail to make anyone he wants legit, Burke needs to find the two-year-old son of a Saudi prince.
However, this wasn’t a simple kidnapping. Some elaborate planning was required to take the young child from his father’s car after the prince had sex in it with a prostitute. Plus, a ransom note has yet to appear, leading Pryce to think a pedophile ring may be involved, which is why he has come to Burke to investigate these odd circumstances.
As Burke begins the search, Vachss provides the reader a glimpse into the world of sexual deviancy through the participants’ use of prostitution and the Internet. When Burke’s first instincts come up without a lead, he changes his focus from the child to the prince, opening up the possible involvement of government agencies and international intrigue.
Another Life moves at fast and furious pace. There’s not much introduction given to the characters as they first appear, which is understandable considering this is the 18th book in the series, and not likely to be where a reader would enter Burke’s world. However some scenes start without much set-up either, making it tough on occasion to get bearings and keep up with the story. There’s not much action at all except for the flashbacks of what happened to the Prof; most scenes are people sitting around talking, but the dialogue is captivating enough to keep the pages turning. The novel has a satisfying and believable conclusion to the plot’s mystery and the series’ characters.
While he claims this is his last Burke book, hopefully Vachss will find another outlet because the character allowed him to present very amusing and intriguing views on society. Here he covered wrestler Chris Benoit, who tragically killed his family before committing suicide; former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who pleaded guilty to charges related to his gambling on and affecting the point spread of basketball games; and considering Vachss is an advocate against animal cruelty, it was no surprise Burke wanted to see former NFL quarterback Michael Vick get the same cruel treatment given his dogs received that landed him in jail. Burke also has interesting thoughts on the geo-political aspects involving the Ali-Foreman fight taking place in Zaire.
In his fiction, Andrew Vachss presents an ugly underbelly of society that is all the more frightening because it’s quite likely the way life really works for those who lurk on the periphery. Reading his books is probably the safest way to view it.