Andrew Vachss can always be depended on to deliver powerful fiction, and his new novel, The Weight, is no exception. I just finished reading an advance copy, and here’s my take on it. You can order it now from Amazon here. Helluva book…
I always enjoy Andrew Vachss’s books, although “enjoy” really isn’t the word one should use. You experience Vachss’s fiction – it’s several strengths stronger than most, and it always takes the reader on a journey through deep darkness to reach the light. The Weight is another of Vachss’s non-series novels (though Buddha, who makes a brief appearance, may be recognized as a former resident of the “Vachssiverse” for lack of a better term). The protagonist is “Sugar” Caine, a thief and a good one, who is convicted of a rape he didn’t commit in order to keep from being charged with a burglary he *did*. He takes “the weight” to keep from having to rat on his friends, something which just isn’t in Sugar’s code. After he does his time, there’s something else he has to do for the man who planned the job and who saved Sugar’s share.
It sounds pretty straightforward, but the narrative turns out to be as twisted and labyrinthine as the minds of Vachss’s characters, and it takes some effort to follow all the plot turns. What seems simple becomes deeply complex, and at times I felt as lost as the characters to whom the motivations are being explained in Vachss’s always authentic dialogue. Still, the explanations always came through and made sense, making me marvel at Vachss’s continuing ability to convey the devious workings of the criminal mind. The believability of the dialogue, the gritty reality of the characters and the settings, and the way the story works itself out to its satisfying conclusion are all hallmarks of Vachss’s work, and they’re in good form here.
Since his ending of the Burke series, it’s been fascinating to see in what directions Vachss’s work is going. Haiku was a masterpiece of emotional brevity, with a larger cast of characters. The Weight concentrates more specifically on just a few, but delves deeper into their individual psyches. Vachss’s different novels have similar tones, but the ways in which he pulls the reader through his stories is always varied, and I’m anxious to see what he does next. I only hope that those “few things to take care of” that he mentions in his moving dedication include a lot more books — of whatever kind he wants to write.