Honor Among Thieves

Title: Blue Belle by Andrew Vachss
Publisher: Vintage Books - A division of Random House, Inc
340 pages

Summary: Burke, the private-eye outlaw with a big problem with child molesters is back. When the yuppie-hating horse-playing ex-con takes on the Times Square world of porn and murder, he finds himself facing a deadly karateka (karate expert) named Mortay (Muerte) and falling for a full figured ex stripper who's learning to deal with her past as a child of incest.  Blue Belle often reads like a hardboiled detective novels. Short sentences. Punchy. Missing verbs. Though the dialogue has a cynical cast, there is not an ounce of moral ambiguity or irony - the evil child-molester/torturer/ killers versus Burke's family of misfits-with-hearts-of-gold, including a tough Asian matriarch, a tough would-be transsexual, a tough jack-of-all-shady-trades and a host of other gruff but goodhearted low-lifes, each with a redeeming mission in life.

Review: This is the third Burke novel.  Its always interesting for me to read books that were written before social media, cell phones and computers took over our lives.  Burke and his crime family rely on their wits, pay phones (not throw away cell phones) and messages passed through messengers.  Its incredible to me that we used to live this way, not having instant access to any and all information that we want and easy access to a phone.  I think I've seen maybe 4 pay phones in the last 2 years!

But back to the book, as always Burke finds himself with a woman that captures his attention, as he takes on a new job protecting the children of the streets.  This time it involves a "ghost van" that is killing child prostitutes and a karate master who is obsessed with killing all the other masters that he can find, calling them out one by one to kill them in front of their students.  Of course one of the best is Burke's crime brother Max who just had a child.  As Burke realizes that he has been kidding himself thinking he was a lone wolf he knows he has to pull out all stops to save his family.

These books are always gritty, rough and a bit dated but they are passionate and raw.  Burke is like an outlaw private detective, a Perry Mason of the New York underworld.  The underdog whose soft spot is helping those who can't help themselves, protecting the children that need his help since no one helped him when he was young.  Burke is a complex character and these books are a fascinating read.