While I've yet to read a novel by Andrew Vachss that I didn't enjoy and find fascinating in the kind of details that only he can present with signature style and authority, AFTERSHOCK instantly leaps to near the top of my favorites under his byline. This may be due in part to my long-standing bias toward series characters and the fact that this marks the first in a projected new series featuring its protagonist Dell and his lady love, Dolly. But it is more than that, much more.
Vachss's powerhouse stand-alones like THE GETAWAY MAN, SHELLA, and THE WEIGHT are bold, strong works, to be sure, and I savored the diverse characterizations and storylines in each of them. But --- like many readers, I expect --- a part of me kept longing for another appearance from Burke and his back-up "family of choice". Yet, at the same time, knowing that Andrew had announced the close of that series and knowing, too, that his word is as solid as you can get, I had to accept no reappearance was going to happen.
Hence, it was with a fresh sense of anticipation and excitement that I cracked open AFTERSOCK --- and, boy, were my hopes more than satisfied.
Dell is not some superficially re-fashioned version of Burke; but he is every bit as hard and complex and savvy. Dell's world is not Burke's; actually, Dell's past has made him a man of many worlds. But his current surroundings (where he resides with Dolly, who has known her own share of past worlds as well) is every bit as dark and nasty as Burke's urban jungle --- and perhaps even more dangerous because it has a façade of "normalcy" draped over it.
I won't go into plot details inasmuch as they have been covered well enough elsewhere. Suffice it to say that the writing is clean and sharp, the characters memorable, the storyline as shocking and timely as tomorrow's headlines. Everything you've come to expect from Vachss, and never done better.