Reading a new Andrew Vachss novel, particularly one featuring his sinister (and unlicensed) PI, Burke, is an experience not unlike turning over a rock: you know instinctively that you're likely to find a frightening or repellent slice of life, but you just have to have a look anyway. In this regard, Vachss' latest, Down Here, does not disappoint. A longtime friend/foe appears in the form of Wolfe, a former sex crimes prosecutor who has taken her crusade private. Burke shares her fervor about sexual predators, but none of her scruples when it comes to dealing with them. Now Wolfe has been accused of attempted murder, and the victim is a serial rapist she had once prosecuted. Despite her protests, Burke decides to investigate on Wolfe's behalf, and the more he sniffs around, the more the situation stinks to high heaven. As is the case with the 14 Burke novels that precede it, Down Here is tautly written, relentlessly depressing about the human condition, yet ultimately triumphant. Burke is the uncrowned king of the lawless good guys, and Down Here will advance his legend among mystery aficionados the world over.

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