Devasted over the death of an innocent on his last case, Burke takes a job that sees him in the Connecticut suburbs investigating a string of teen suicides. Burke's investigations take him into a web of S&M and blackmail that he may never escape...
Andrew Vachss' Burke stories are so bleak that they make the apocalypse look inviting by comparison and this one is no exception. Like the previous tales, Burke's case takes him up against uncomfortable subjects like child abuse. This time, Vachss also throws S&M and blackmail into the mix for good measure.
As I journey farther down Burke's dark path, I notice he continues to grow as a character, something that doesn't happen very much in a series of this kind. Burke shows a remarkable amount (for him) of patience with Randy and is actually nicer to some of the other players than he normally is. While I missed most of the usual supporting cast, Mama and The Prof were in fine form.
The characters of Randy and Fancy were among the most interesting in the series so far, both in their backgrounds and the way they interacted with Burke. It's not very often you see a borderline sociopathic detective befriend a teenage boy or have a dominatrix as a sidekick but Vachss really makes it work.
While I liked Down in the Zero, I didn't love it. The mystery seemed forgotten at times and was in no way solveable, and the side plot about the computer disk and the gems felt tacked on. It felt like a "rebuilding" sort of book so Burke would be ready for whatever gets vomited in his path in the next one. Other than that, it was a pretty enjoyable read. I now know more about S&M than I ever wanted to.