an Aftershock novel by Andrew Vachss
"In Vachss's engrossing sequel to 2013's Aftershock, a battered corpse with a shattered skull washes up on the beach of the Oregon town where Adelbert "Dell" Jackson and his wife, Dolly, have settled, determined to live peacefully under aliases. The only clues to the dead man's identity are in the Nazi tattoos covering his body. The police arrest Homer, a schizophrenic homeless man, for murder after he produces the victim's watch. Mack, a social worker colleague of Dolly's who believes Homer is innocent and won't survive confinement, asks Dolly for help. Dolly turns to Dell, who's forced to return to the violent life he forsook when he joined the French Foreign Legion. Along with Mack, Dell explores a dark world inhabited by the homeless, hate groups, and tattoo artists. Intelligently drawn characters and assured prose help make this crime novel a winner."
"The author of the celebrated Burke series offers the second in a new series starring former mercenary Dell and former battlefield nurse Dolly. When a dead man washes up on a Pacific Northwest beach, his head bashed in and his body decorated with neo–Nazi tattoos, a homeless man is arrested for his murder. But Dolly knows better and turns to Dell for help."
"Part thriller, part investigative journalism, all hard-hitting fiction, as you'd expect from Vachss."
—Thomas Pluck, thomaspluck.com
"With this latest installment in his new Aftershock series, Andrew Vachss reminds us once again—in his inimitable, visceral prose—that for some, peace comes at a very high price."
—Random House Publishing
"What happens next is a rollercoaster ride in Hell's amusement park as only Andrew Vachss could conjure up with inimitable, visceral prose. You'll mainline this thriller for its expertly paced plot and fascinating characters. And you'll come away realizing that, along the way, Vachss has made you think deeply about hate crimes, mental illness, money, and our frail construct of personal security in American society."
I didn't want to be doing this.
Not ever again, not any part of it. It was all wrong. Every interlocking piece of it, wrong.
The worst part was that, once I started, it didn't feel wrong. Not once I found that place inside me that didn't feel anything. Inside that world of ice–pure emptiness, there is only this: la mission est sacré. As a child, I had been directed to that world as another might have been to a boarding school—to learn how to conduct myself in a place already reserved for me.
I left for one world; the man who told me where I must go left for another. I was forbidden to follow him, and there was no question as to my obedience. How could I not obey the only person who had ever loved me?
I was certain I'd forever left that place I'd been sent to, but later I found that I could return at will. And I wouldn't need a map. That place wasn't a geographic location—it was an implant.
Until Dolly, that training I got there may have kept me alive, but I felt no gratitude for that. Instead, I often blamed it for my always–empty life.
Before Dolly, no matter what path I walked, the road would fork at every juncture. But those were nothing but illusions—there never had been more than one path for me to walk ... not if I wanted to keep walking. The destination never mattered, only the departure.
But those who had abandoned me, used me, even paid me—their implant never reached my core. Deep inside myself, I waited. Should I ever come across a chance—a real chance—at another life, I'd take it.
If anyone tried to stop me, I'd take theirs.
It wouldn't matter whether I had to hack my way through vegetation, or flesh and bone. If I ever saw such a chance, I knew it would be a tiny candle, burning in a black cellar. A flickering candle, with very little remaining light.
Whatever that cost—I'd pay. Or I'd make others pay.
The only way I knew to leave the place that trained me was to use that training.
By whatever miracle, I'd managed to do that. The opening appeared. The instant it did, I leaped blind. And landed at the one place I'd always been seeking.
In my world, secrets were weapons, and you never abandoned your weapons. Surrender wasn't an option—not when you're fighting those who didn't trade prisoners, and being paid to fight by those who had no prisoners to trade.
Whatever had compelled me to leap so blindly had been true. I thought I'd paid in full, but it turned out that all I'd paid was the price of admission. If I wanted to stay, I'd have to return to what I once was.
And, that time, it was my choice.
[ Return to the NOVELS list ]
[ See AFTERSHOCK, Book 1 ]
[ See SIGNWAVE, Book 3 ]