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Andrew Vachss
"Lord of the asphalt jungle." —Washington Post
A Burke Novel

In Strega one of our most acclaimed crime writers [Andrew Vachss] gives us a thriller that might have been imagined by Dante. For this is a tour of hell with no stops left out, conducted by a novelist who writes with the authority of the damned.

Andrew Vachss
Photo: Martha Kaplan

STREGA by Andrew Vachss

Mystery | Vintage Crime | Trade Paperback | Jul 2000 | $12.00 | Andrew Vachss

BURKE is Back!

Andrew Vachss' gripping new thriller—even more dazzling and shocking than his first novel, Flood—returns us to the seamy underworld of New York City in the company of the ex-con/scam artist/private eye whose self-appointed mission is to make the world unsafe for child molesters (and stay out of jail while doing it).

This time Burke is on the trail of a photograph—a single snapshot that's out there amidst a sea of kiddie porn, a snapshot that haunts the dreams of a sexually abused six-year-old boy. The search propels Burke into the world he calls home: the secret haunts of mobsters and hustlers, peddlers and prositutes, in the catacombs of lower Manhattan, the dimly lit streets of river-front Brooklyn, and the neon precincts of Times Square. And as he fits together the pieces of this bizarre puzzle, Burke is assisted by his extraordinary crew of friends, who, like Burke himself, walk both sides of the law:

  • Mama Wong—the Chinatown restaurateur (she's somewhere between fifty and ninety years old) who provides both cover and Cntonese delicacies for her "son" Burke.

  • Michelle—the almost-transsexual prostitute, always willing to do Burke just the right kind of favor.

  • Max—the mute Mongolian powerhouse, "the life-taking, widow-making silent wind of death," whose lethal body does all his talking for him, and often for Burke.

  • Prof—short for Prophet, whose street smarts are as highly developed as his rhyme scheme ("I never fall because I see it all") is simple.
  • Immaculata—the Vietnamese psychotherapist whose first concern is her young clients at the clinic for sexually abused children, and who can be as spiky as her heels and dark-lacquered talons suggest.

  • Mole—"not the kind of human you'd want to make eye contact with," avowed Nazi hunter and jack-of-all-questionable-trades, whose home-away-from-prison is a South Bronx junkyard.

  • Pansy—Burke's deadly Neapolitan mastiff: 140 pounds of muscle and dumb as a brick, but always ready to "discuss" the ethics of breaking and entering with anyone who might show up at Burke's warehouse office.

    And monitoring Burke's progress at a distance, the mysterious, dangerously alluring Strega—redheaded Mafia princess whose twisted heart burns with cold fire...who has forced Burke into taking on this case...who repeatedly forces herself on him, determined to make him her sexual slave...and who begins to betray the secrets of her own past as the novel moves toward its violent and astonishing climax...

  • Acclaim for Andrew Vachss

    "A bizarre, fast-paced tour of the criminal psyche...Has a grim authenticity."

    —Philadelphia Inquirer

    "The words leap off the page, the principal character is original, and the style is as clean as a Haiku."

    —David Morrell
    Washington Post

    "Never-ending'll come up for air bruised and skinned."

    —Chicago Sun-Times

    "An absolute stunner, the toughest crime novel and one of the most realistic any american writer has produced. Strega outranks Vachss' body blow of a first novel, Flood. Next to Vachss, Chandler, Cain and Hammett look like choirboys. What makes Strega both so sensational and so frightening is its theme."

    —Cleveland Plain Dealer

    "Burke is the ultimate creature of the streets...the best character in years!"

    —Dallas Times Herald

    STREGA hc by Andrew Vachss
    ISBN 0-394-55937-1 | 1987
    Knopf hard cover edition
    STREGA by Andrew Vachss
    ISBN 0-451-15179-8 | 1988
    Signet edition
    STREGA by Andrew Vachss
    ISBN 0-679-76409-7 | 1995
    Vintage Crime edition

    Andrew Vachss' implacable private eye has a new client. Strega. She wants Burke to find an obscene photograph—and that search will take him into the ocean that flows just beneath the city, an ocean whose currents are the flesh and money, the anguish of children and the pleasure of twisted adults. It is a place that Burke can visit only at the risk of his sanity and his life. But between the power of Strega and his own sense of justice, there is no turning back.


    "I took a close look at her. I might have to describe her someday and I didn't think she'd pose for a picture. The red hair framed a small, heart-shaped face. Her eyes were big and set far apart, the color of factory smoke. Her makeup looked like it was done by an expert: dark-red lipstick outlined in black, eye-shadow that went from blue to black as it flowed from her eyebrows to the lashes, blended blusher on her cheeks, breaking right at the cheekbones for emphasis. Her teeth were tiny pearls—they looked too small for a grown woman, and too perfect to be real. Her nose was small and sharply bridged, slightly turned up at the tip. Her hands were small, but the fingers were long, capped with long manicured nails in the same shade as her lipstick. Her eyes followed mine as they traveled over her—she was used to this."

    Strega. The Italian term for sexual witch. She would do anything to have Burke take her case. Anything.

    "Vachss' writing is like a dark rollercoaster ride of love and hate."

    —New Orleans Times-Picayune

    Read Laurence Shames interview with Andrew Vachss
    for the February 1986 edition of Playboy.

    Hard Looks Mirror Cover
    mirror collection.
    Containing 20 of the illustrated
    comics stories
    from the series
    written by Andrew Vachss.
    240 pgs - $17.95 U.S.

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