After jumping into the middle of the series and reading Hard Candy, it was a joy to go back to the beginning. It was kind of like seeing Episode 1 (except that it didn't suck--AT ALL). I loved being introduced to the characters for the first time: Burke, Max the Silent, Mama, Michelle, the Mole and of course, Pansy:
The dog is a hell of a lot better than a burglar alarm. The cops wouldn't rush into this neighborhood in the middle of the night anyway, and with Pansy on the job the burglar would still be there when anyone showed up. She's a Neapolitan mastiff--about 140 pounds of concentrated hatred for all humanity except me. My last dog was a Doberman named Devil. She bit some clown and I got hit with a $100,000 lawsuit, so she had to run away from home. She never had a license and I'm about as judgment-proof as a man can get, but this lawyer I refer cases to sometimes told me that I should give my next dog a name that wouldn't sound so negative. I thought of naming her Neapolitan Homicide and calling her Homo for short, but the lawyer told me you never know who is going to be on a jury, especially in New York--so I compromised and called her Pansy. A lot of my clients don't like the dog, but that doesn't amount to a whole hell of a lot of people.
Burke's current client is a woman named Flood--also a name I recognized from Hard Candy, although she didn't appear in that one--a martial arts expert who is tracking down the man who raped and murdered her best friend's child.
In a lot of other series books, the first book involves the main character meeting all of the other regular characters. In that way, it didn't feel like a first book--the only secondary character that Burke meets for the first time is Flood. He already knows the others. Michelle is already flirting with The Mole. Burke and Max the Silent are already brothers. As the reader, you just get dumped into Burke's world. Which really works--it makes everyone and everything more real. So picking up a book in the middle in the series isn't a big deal--a patron actually just returned the new one (#15 Down Here--she really liked it) and she said that it was her first Vachss book.
But this first book gives more background information about the other characters and about Burke. And personally, I kind of have a thing about reading books in order.
I ordered the second book from Alibris. I can't wait! I'm really curious about the later books. Not just because I want to know what'll happen with the characters, but also because it'll be interesting to get Vachss' take on all of the changes that have happened in New York (pre-9/11, even).