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  • Magnificent Bastard: Burke himself.
  • Never Live It Down: In Blossom, Burke finds himself throwing a rock through a window when he has to break into a government building. The rest of the book finds everyone from his friends to the police busting his chops for such a clumsy break-in.
  • Nightmare Fuel: By the bucket, to the point where it troubles even the most hardened of characters.
  • Sequelitis: Just compare the tightly packed prose of Flood with any of Vachss' more recent (and much shorter) Burke novels.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The premise is always so promising, but it's ALWAYS abandoned just as things are getting good. No matter how fascinating the story, Vachss will pull the rug out from under it, and there will always be pedophilia at the bottom of it. The man's done amazingly admirable work in his life, but his fiction's a mite frustrating.
    • Terminal. A former high-ranking member of a white supremacist group is dying, and the only whisper of a hint of a chance for survival is a treatment being developed in Switzerland. What we get is a story about a group blackmailing pedophiles into giving them the cash for the treatment.
    • Choice of Evil features a serial killer who targets only gay-bashers- oh no, he's a former kidnapper who wants to assume the position of best assassin ever.
    • Hard Candy is supposedly about rescuing a girl from a cult, but damned if that plot took more than twenty pages of the total book.
    • Blue Belle features the main character being hired to stop a group of men who are killing local prostitutes. Only problem is, they're protected by a martial arts master named Mortay, supposedly one of the best in the city. This becomes a major plot point, given that the main character's best friend is also a gifted martial artist. Mortay (who appears on about four pages of the book, towards the end) threatens his family to goad him into a fight. The fight never happens because the main character kills him with a grenade.
    • Down Here has Wolfe being accused of the attempted murder of a serial rapist who was let out on a technicality. Dark forces in the DA's office appear to be moving against her...but top lawyer Davidson quickly gets Wolfe released when it becomes apparent there's no real evidence, and we go onto a plot involving the rapist who's using a MacGuffin to blackmail some well-financed terrorists.
  • The Woobie: Princess from the Cross series. He starts out as mostly a gag character, but over time you learn he's genuinely mentally ill. It turns out that he saw his entire family murdered in front of him and was then enslaved as a cage match fighter.
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