Crime story writers don’t get a lot of respect (but they sure do sell books) from the literary critical mob. Though, it is a situation that has improved in the past decade or so with the canonization of Elmore Leonard and the great good work of writers like George Pelecanos, Thomas Perry, Chuck Hogan and a few others. Okay, Michael Connelly also.
Andrew Vachss, whose biography is as interesting as some of his characters, established a successful franchise with his Burke novels (which I devoured when I still read series and has continued to write gripping and taut thrillers with a moralizing bent ( the gist of which is people who abuse children deserve no mercy).
The Weight (Pantheon) which introduces Sugar, a professional thief, who is faced with the DA’s offer—give up his partners in a recent jewelry heist and walk, or plead a rape he didn’t commit with a gun charge thrown in. Sugar takes the rape charge which on paper alibis him for the robbery.
Sugar does his prison bit (also known in crime argot as the weight, hence the book’s title) and comes out realizing he is still not out from under the robbery’s taint. Which leads to some necessary havoc and subtle mayhem. Vachss is especially good (in the same way Thomas Perry is) explaining the survival tactics and existential chicanery of life on the wild side.
I expect there will be more Sugar stories —he’s too good a character for Vachss to leave behind. And I expect to overcome my resistance to series to have a look