Flood, Andrew Vachss

Throughout the years I’ve heard some whisperings about writer Andrew Vachss as an author to read. He writes hard boiled mysteries with a pretty tough subject matter: the abuse of children. That alone will put most readers off. I think I can tolerate tough subject matters reasonably well as long as it’s done right. However, nothing a writer can pen on paper can outdo real life horrors. Vachss did an interview for the last book in the series where he said he wrote the Burke novels to raise anger along with awareness. Flood, published in 1985, is the first book in the Burke series and I’m sorry to say that the story was flat and boring and I set it aside after reading 15% of it’s 400 pages.

Cover depicts a cascade of women faces in black and white Flood is a story of revenge and it is also the name of the woman (she specializes in martial arts) who comes looking for Burke to help her track down a child rapist with a military background. The search proves rather difficult and the story mostly focused on Flood and Burke tracking him down.

While the plot is a good one in theory, the telling of it wasn’t all that great of an experience for me. The strongest criticism I have is for the main protagonist, Burke. I didn’t believe in his character at all. There were just too many instances where I was going “give me a break” while he was doing his thing. His backstory, doled out to us in bits, shows him as another victim of the system who has learned how to use the system to his advantage. He’s been to prison several times and is a self-described survivalist.

Despite much of what Burke is said to be on paper, I had a hard to believing any of it. He had convenient connects everywhere. His reputation on the New York streets seems to always bring him shady business. He’s supposed to be a private detective but behaves more like a scam artist. He’s often acting like a phony cop or a phony lawyer.  He’s not quite a good guy but isn’t all bad either. He can go into a murderous rage anytime he runs across a child who is a victim of a predator. There’s some interesting aspects of his personality and life but a lot of it was overkill and a huge distraction.

Blame my mood or what have you but Burke was just too much for me to read and accept. The first person narrative proved to be problematic as well because it made me tire of him rather quickly. Another criticism was that the side stories weren’t all that interesting. Mostly they were used to show off Burke’s cunning and muscle. I’m not interested in any of that. The author is also a dog lover so we are never without some mention of Pansy whether it’s feeding him or giving him water. I don’t mind stories about characters with pets but in this instance the constant mention can be quite tiresome.

In the end the story became a chore to read and I set it aside. There was just too many derailments. If this book just focused on the main plot then I might have finished this book but when the story started to veer off in another direction for the nth time well, I closed the book and said “enough” at the 15% mark.  At the end of it all, this wasn’t the outcome/response I was expecting so color me surprised that I didn’t enjoy this story more. This was a DNF and a costly one, too. Of course, if you’ve enjoyed these novels, I’d love to hear from you. I don’t think I’ll be reading anymore in the series.

Interesting to note that on Amazon, this book (at time of this writing) has a total of 59 reviews and almost all of them are mainly positive. I went straight down to the few negative reviews and found one that explained my thoughts of this book (at least from the start!) perfectly.

10 thoughts on “Flood, Andrew Vachss

  1. flood wasn’t my favorite book of Vachss, but I did finish it. Some of the later books in the series are much better. They’re dark and leave you feeling weighed down and depressed; I definitely have to space out my reading of them.

  2. Keishon – Thank you (!) for your candid review. The subject matter itself made me wonder whether I’d want to read this. And now that I’ve seen your review, I’m even less certain that I will. I can handle tough – even harrowing – plots if the story is at its core a good one. with characters I can believe. Otherwise I have a really difficult time accepting a novel, especially one like this one, with a lot of difficult subject matter. Um, probably no, thanks. But your review is thoughtful, detailed and well-written.

  3. Very interesting review. I had avoided this series because of the subject and felt it would be too violent and graphic for me. But then, I kept reading praise for the novels. If I decide to give this series a try, I will try a later novel. It was definitely good to get your point of view.

    • After Melissa’s comment, I feel encouraged to try one more. Of course if you beat me to it, I’d be interested in your thoughts as well.

  4. I think the Burke series is great, but I wouldn’t (and didn’t) start with Flood. Andrew Vachss himself said that he never expected to get more than one shot at writing a book, so he threw every punch he could in his first novel, and it suffered for that. I started with Blue Belle, the third book, which I think is magnificent. My boyfriend (and every male I know who’s read Burke) loves the second book, Strega.

    Actually, his most recent books are the ones I like best. They aren’t in the Burke series, but they really show off his mature style. The Weight and Aftershock are both terrific.

  5. Keishon, I think I probably need to print off the review you linked to and re-assess my thoughts when I re-read. It’s probably 15 years or more since I read this and I don’t recall too much about it, other than I must have liked it enough to continue with the series for at least 8 or 9 books. Fifteen years older, (not necessarily wiser though) I’ll see what I think. Sorry you were disappointed.

    • That’s ok Col. I’d bought this ebook sometime ago. I think I will try to read one more in the series as sometimes first books aren’t always the best. I’ve got enough feedback from other readers/fans to make me rethink my attempt to try again. Thanks.

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