Review: Flood by Andrew Vachss

This is the first book in the Burke series and introduces the New York based private investigator who has set himself up as a scam artist who also offers his services as a private detective. He is based in New York City and has a wide range of contacts and tricks that ensure he can circumvent most obstacles.

The book was a finalist for the 1986 Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel. 

Book Details

Title: Flood
Author: Andrew Vachss
Pages: 344
Published Date: 1985
Publisher: Donald I. Fine
Series Details: 1st book in the Burke series
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Publisher's Synopsis

Burke’s newest client is a woman named Flood, who has the face of an angel, the body of a high-priced stripper, and the skills of a professional executioner.  She wants Burke to find a monster for her—so she can kill him with her bare hands.

In this cauterizing thriller, Andrew Vachss’s renegade investigator teams up with a lethally gifted avenger to follow a child’s murderer through the catacombs of New York, where every alley is blind and the penthouses are as dangerous as the basements.  Fearfully knowing, crackling with narrative tension, and written in prose as forceful as a hollow-point slug, Flood is Burke at his deadliest—and Vachss at the peak of his form.

From the Dustjacket

She came into Burke’s office on a steamy city morning, a small blond angel bent on revenge. Her name is Flood, and she wants Burke to find a child murderer called The Cobra – so she can kill him with her bare hands.

In New York’s underworld of drugs, hustlers and kiddie porn, Burke’s dragnet closes in. The hunt is on – for a psycho the police can’t get, for one last chance to even the score.

Other Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Vachss is setting Burke in place for a series, establishing all the landmarks by which we will instantly be at home with Burke on his next appearance. These include a gigantic 140-pound mastiff, Pansy, the vicious but lovable guard dog who lives in Burke's seedy office and uses the now fragrant roof for a toilet; Burke's mute Chinese helper Max the Silent, also known as Silent Dragon, the world's greatest karate killer; Burke's male transvestite/working-prostitute friend Michelle...Read Full Review

Dead End Follies

Burke is a darkened motherfucker. Everything he touches seems tainted by bad luck, violence and death. He's an unlicensed private investigator with a love for dog and a hatred for child abusers. One quiet day, he receives the visit of a short, plump and beautiful woman conveniently named Flood, who's looking for a man named Martin Howard Wilson. So we enter the world of Burke...Read Full Review

Dancing Badger

Vachss created the fascinating hustler/PI Burke (first name 'Baby Boy'; that's all it says on the birth certificate) in this revenge thriller with a climax that we're so wound up for we don't even notice that only takes a few seconds...Read Full Review

The Good, The Bad and The Unread

Burke himself is a compelling character. He lives an underground life, hiding from normal everyday citizens because it’s easier that way. Stepping into Burke’s world leaves the reader, as it does Flood, the woman who finds Burke and asks him to find a man called the Cobra so she can kill him, either keeping up or being lost...Read Full Review

Night Flight

Flood is a novel that, even as it shocks, manages a counterpoint of charm and profound sense of decent outrage. And it introduces two wonderful, irrepressible characters of whom more will be heard...Read Full Review

GoodReads Reviews

"You say you want a hard-boiled gritty crime novel? Well, you can read Andrew Vachss’s series about Burke, but you better stock up on anti-depressants and be prepared to give up any faith in humanity you might have.

Burke is a lot of things. A former mercenary, a scam artist, an ex-convict, and an unlicensed sort-of private detective, but he thinks of his full-time occupation as survivor. Raised as an orphan in foster care and jail, Burke now gives new meaning to the word ‘paranoid’..."

At the time of writing there are 230 reviews posted to the GoodReads website as well as 3,483 ratings for an average of 3.9/5 stars. You can read these reviews by visiting the GoodReads website

Amazon Reviews

"Very dark (not my usual cup of tea) but brilliant and carefully plotted. A page turner even when you shudder at what you suspect is on the next page. Andrew Vachss is a master at this, and Burke is a smart anti-hero who has a bit of Robin Hood and just a bit of John Rain in him too. Raised by the state in a succession of orphanages and foster homes, he has no delusions of what the street holds. He shows the reader the worst of the under-belly of New York City, including pimps and child rapists..."

At the time of writing there are 80 reviews posted to the Amazon website for an average of 4.5/5 stars. You can read these reviews by visiting the Amazon website

Author Interviews

Read the interview Andrew Vachss did with Laurence Shames in the February 1986 edition of Playboy - read here

A Conversation With Andrew Vachss at Mulholland Books

Interviewed by Jay MacDonald in July 2005 at

Other Shamus Best First PI Novel nominees - 1986



Wayne Warga

*** winner ***

New, Improved Murder


Ed Gorman

Sleeping Dog


Dick Lochte

Embrace the Wolf


Benjamin Schutz