Publication Date: July 10, 2012
In Blackjack: A Cross Novel by Andrew Vachss, something is killing people who poach (whether animals or humans) and has been for years. A task force sets out to find this unknown force and hires Cross, a mercenary who is a bit of an urban legend onto himself, and his crew to find the mystery unknown. Can Cross succeed where others have failed? On the surface, he seems the best guy for the job but this killer appears to be not of this world.
This was a complicated story to read. It was dark; it was intense; it was mystical; it was gritty and I loved it. This is the first full-length Cross novel by Andrew Vachss. He’s introduced the characters in short stories that perhaps explain the characters. In Blackjack, Cross and company are a mystery. We know what the shady Unit 3 members know … surface detail, but as Cross points out, we don’t know what motivates them, but in this case, that’s perfectly okay. Not knowing their motivation makes for an even better story.
Vachss is a master storyteller. He bounces a bit from character to character and scene to scene but every aspect plays together beautifully. He has a firm grasp of a very real dialect from varied classes of people. There are few flaws in his character conversations. In the course of this story, Cross goes from interacting with Unit 3 and high-level criminals to posing as a white supremacist as a plant in a jail run by the inmates.
Blackjack, while somewhat paranormal, had a very logical base. These shadow creatures are killing so that the kills of the hunter become their kills. At the start of the novel, the creatures are killing a very specific type—people who have the world firmly in their hands. There’s a feeling that the killer absorbs the power of the killed. This concept could go very hokey, very easily, but Vachss keeps it on an even keel so that the premise can be believed from the moment Unit 3 contacts him until the climax of conflict with the creatures.
There are a lot of plot twists and a lot of characters in Blackjack and each and every one is distinct and memorable. This was a great read and one I highly recommend. I will be watching carefully for the next release from this talented author.
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