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Hard Candy

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Burke is most definitely a man with a mission, a knight errant in the medieval tradition. For reasons somewhat obscure, he is determined to raise the cost of child abuse to an unacceptable level. Admittedly, the concept of obtaining sexual satisfaction from children is repugnant to most humans, but Burke’s motivations are so intense as to approach psychosis. Indeed for much of this fourth book in a continuing series he is rendered impotent in consequence of the emotional burdens he carries.

In any event, Burke is committed to eliminating the Hydra of child abuse--one head at a time. Burke is willing to work within or without the legal processes--the only thing that matters is that the guilty shall be punished. As is so often the case, however, the face of evil is sometimes obscured by the memory of past friendship and ancient passion. Extremely depressed by the death of a close friend and fearful that he may be losing the edge which enables him to survive and prosper, relatively speaking, Burke finds himself confronted by two individuals from his distant past. On the one hand there is Wesley--the most terrifying and efficient contract killer in the business. Wesley and Burke were once members of the same street gang, but now Wesley is convinced that Burke is a potential competitor, and confrontation is imminent. At the same time, Burke must deal with Candy, the object of countless adolescent fantasies fulfilled in a previous life. Wesley and Candy need Burke, but in the process of pursuing their respective objectives Burke is placed in a murderous box from which there is no apparent escape. Meanwhile, the monsters are continuing to prey upon the innocent, and Burke must mete our just retribution.

Andrew Vachss has created in Burke an impressively moral individual whose methods are anything but moral, except insofar as to him the just end may be attained by any means whatsoever. The books in this series are not for the squeamish, but they are so compelling in their narrative impact as to be quite impossible to abandon.