With the possible exception of James Ellroy, Andrew Vachss is the mystery writer with the darkest heart and the most troubled soul. Like his 10 other books about the enigmatic outlaw private eye called Burke, Choice of Evil deals with unpleasant subjects--ritual murder, pedophilia, sexual deviance--the full force of which are never dampened by attempts at tact or taste. Vachss is not an author to look away from the nasty, or try to soften any of life's lowest blows.
That said, his latest does start off on a light note when Burke's giant mastiff, Pansy, is grabbed in a police raid. Burke and his motley crew of helpers--people with names like Mole, Crystal Beth, and Max the Silent--stage a raid on the animal shelter, and in a zany scene worthy of Lawrence Block or Donald Westlake, set free a herd of caged canines. All too soon, however, darkness descends as Crystal Beth--Burke's main squeeze and an activist for abused women--is killed at an outdoor rally, apparently by someone who hates homosexuals. Following this atrocity, a vigilante calling himself Homo Erectus declares war on gay bashers, and also on pedophiles who seek to link their cause to gay rights. Burke is hired to find this vigilante and keep him safe before the cops nab him.
Mentioning pedophilia to Burke is like waving a red flag at a bull: he can (and does) go on for many pages about this particular evil as he and a friendly lesbian dominatrix link Homo Erectus to a supposedly long-dead killer from Burke's own past.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
When his girlfriend, Crystal Beth, is gunned down at a gay rights rally in Central Park, Burke, the underground man-for-hire and expert hunter of predators, vows vengeance. But someone beats him to the task: a shadowy killer who calls himself Homo Erectus and who seems determined to wipe gay bashers from the face of the earth. As the killer's body count rises, most citizens are horrified, but a few see him as a hero, and they hire Burke to track him down...and help him escape.
In Choice of Evil, Burke is forced to confront his most harrowing mystery: the mind of an obsessive serial killer. And soon the emotionally void method behind the killer's madness becomes terrifyingly familiar, reminding Burke of his childhood partner, Wesley, the ice-man assassin who never missed, even when the target was himself. Has Wesley come back from the dead? The whisper-stream says so. And the truth may just challenge Burke's very sense of reality. Expertly plotted, addictive, enthralling, Choice of Evil is Andrew Vachss' most haunting tale to date.
A good crime novel, April 10, 2002 Reviewer: uqob from New York, NY USA As a stand alone novel, it is perhaps too heavy with references to previous novels but the disturbing nature of the story is strong enough to prevent those moments from becoming too distracting. The story is actual a mystery, as Burke (the protagonist) attempts to find the killer of his girlfriend Crystal Beth and discovers that her death is actually a great deal more horrific given who the murderer may be. The plot is not only an exploration of what kind of adult a State run (specifically New York) childcare department can produce but also the seamy criminal culture of pedophiles and serial killers. Be forewarned this book is not a comfortable read. Mr. Vacchs skill is enough that a great deal of the book is read with a fair amount of dread as one damaged character appears after another, with the character Burke being the axle of which this wonder-wheel of strange and unusual individuals revolve. So what's to like about this book? It's a crime genre novel and if you enjoy that kind of book it is well done and swimming with enough criminals and insinuated violence to make your skin crawl. The dialogue reads the way people speak so there is a flow that makes you the 3rd person in the scene, but there can be a bit of a struggle as characters interrupt each other's dialogue to express their own thoughts. In regard to the cast of characters, it's hard not to appreciate the loyalty Burke and his adopted street family share, but it's an uncomfortable appreciation given the nature of many of the relationships between the characters, most of them being practicing criminals. There is enough hints in Burke's thoughts that you know he has been made by his violent childhood circumstance and as an adult he's decided that this is the life he will lead, doing crimes and occasionally killing criminals that fall into the categories he finds abhorrent. Burke seems to be two people, either he is just a criminal with a vengeance streak or he's a victim turned criminal to get close to his source of vengeance. In either case Burke can be a depressing and vengeful character in this novel, as the reader begins to realize it doesn't really matter if he is either of those two people, (vengeful criminal or victim turning to crime for vengeance. One can't help suspecting that no matter what good comes from his actions Burke doesn't have a chance in hell of ever being happy or particularly stable. What this novel did succeed in doing is galvanize me to buy past Burke novels to fill in some of the character gaps. All in all, this book kept me turning the page and wondering what Burke's next novel will be about.