A while ago I remembered some of the first thriller authors I read as a teenager. There was Sara Paretsky's Vic Warshawsky series, some German and Swedish authors and there was this one guy called Andrew Vachss. His Burke was one of the darkest characters I had met so far, dark, but still the good guy. In my memory there were only bits and pieces so I re-read Flood (1985), the first novel, in English on my kindle. It was even darker then I remembered.
Burke is a kind of a private investigator who is very secretive, very careful about letting people know things about himself and his business. He chooses his cases carefully, apparently only for money, but deep down he's very sensitive - especially about the topic of child abuse.
He has well-trained dog called Pansy (who is modelled after one of Vachss' own dogs as you can read and see on his website) and some strange/bizarre friends who help him devotedly.
Flood is a woman who wants to revenge the death of her friend and her friend's child who were killed by a child abuser and she needs Burke's help to find the man. While dealing with a lot of violence and moving about in NY's darkest areas Burke and Flood get into a personal relationship which lets us see behind the mask of the tough guy and together they succeed.
I liked to read the story again, I am still fond of the characters, the setting and the atmosphere. The language took a while getting used to. The topic - which is Vachss' main impulse to write the books - is sadly still very up-to-date and he is still fighting for better treatment and protection of abandoned and abused kids.
Probably I'll read more - some of the later novels didn't get translated into German so there's a lot more to read (list on krimi-couch.de).