A woman named Flood shows up at Burke's office and hires him to find a child molester calling himself the Cobra so she can kill him with her bare hands. Can Burke navigate the cesspools of New York and bring in the Cobra?
You know a crime book is going to be good when the author has an eye patch. I've been aware of Andrew Vachss for a long time. Partly because of his work as a lawyer but mostly because Joe Lansdale based his Veil character on him. Does Flood live up to my eye patch-fueled expectations? You bet your ass!
Vachss knows how to write a hard boiled crime book like nobody's business. Burke is far from the detective cliche, the child of a broken home who grew up in orphanages and detention centers, an uber-paranoid guy bent on beating the system, getting by on various scams in addition to his detective work. The bad guys of the story are so much worse than Burke that they make him look like an angel by comparison. Then again, that's not hard when the baddies are pimps and/or pedophiles. Goldor and the Cobra are both despicable and you can't wait for them to get what they have coming.
The supporting cast was interesting. You have the deaf mute Max the Silent, the Prof, the Mole, Mama, quite a memorable cast. Like in Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder series, New York is almost a character itself. Flood, the title character, is pretty believable for a kung fu master consumed with a desire for revenge.
Burke isn't a super-hero like some detectives. He's scared, not all that tough, and doesn't go in with guns blazing. He's a survivor, though.
The thing docking Flood a star? The ending involving the pimp seemed forced. I just didn't buy her relationship with Burke. Based on their backgrounds, I just didn't buy that they'd end up in the sack so fast. Other than that, I've got no complaints.