After years of carefully working the edges, a blood-commitment forces Burke's return to his former career: "violence-for-money." Claw, once the shot-caller of a white supremacist prison gang is free . . . and terminally ill--he desperately needs a pile of cash to bet on a long-shot cure. He tells Burke about a punk who once purchased protection from him, a man who claims to know the truth behind a "cold case, " the unsolved rape-murder of a thirteen-year-old girl. The killers are all weathly men today, ideal blackmail marks. But wealth is power, and the informant needs Claw's protection again. Burke decides to roll the dice. A win would give Burke the two things he lives for: Money and Revenge. A loss would turn "terminal" from a diagnosis into a certainly, and not just for Claw.
Vachss's 17th Burke novel (after 2006's Mask Murder) combines gritty realism with an over-the-top depiction of an omniscient spy network. Claude Dremdell, a white supremacist whose sole hope against his terminal illness is a pricy experimental Swiss treatment, ropes Burke into a plot to extort money from three wealthy men who years earlier committed a brutal murder (loosely based on the real-life Martha Moxley case), but were never suspected. Armed with only fragmentary evidence in the form of two checks, Burke turns for help to an Israeli intelligence operation working covertly in the U.S. with superhuman powers of information gathering. Lengthy tirades about the failures of the criminal justice system under the current Bush administration will distract even those who agree with them. In the end, the violent vengeance Burke seeks overshadows the worthy points Vachss makes about the continuing horrific sexual abuse of the young.