While Burke is reeling over Belle's death, he's called by someone from his past, a hooker named Candy. Candy's daughter Elivira is mixed up with a cult leader named Train and it's up to Burke to bring her back. Complicating matters is the fact that a hitman named Wesley is furious over Burke's killing of Mortay and wants the money he was promised by the mob. Can Burke settle things with Candy and avoid being Wesley's next victim?
The Burke books get bleaker and more twisted with each passing volume. As usual, Vachss paints a dark picture of New York's cesspool-like underbelly of freaks and criminals. Burke's pain from Belle's death was in character and well done. It was nice to see Burke's supporting cast again; Max the Silent, the Mole, the Prof, Michelle, Terry, Mama, and the rest. Hell, it was nice surprise to have Strega make an appearance. As usual, Burke had a couple of scams going and it all came together in the end.
However, I couldn't justify giving this better than a three. It was good but not as pants-shittingly good as it could have been. Burke meandered for 90 pages, doing a lot of moping, until Candy finally got into touch with him. While I liked the rest of it, the first third of the book was almost painfully slow.
The second 2/3rds of Hard Candy was a ripping page turner. Just be prepared for it to be a little late getting off the starting line.