After starting and stopping at least a dozen times, I finally settled down and read Mask Market in one sitting. And I have to say that I was disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed in Vachss, because he is a phenomenal writer, but I was unhappy with the actions of the characters in the book. I know that readers certainly do not deserve a happy ending. Art imitates life and life is not happy or neat or fair. Still, that fact doesn’t keep me from wanting the bad guys punished and the good guys rewarded. That’s just the way I am. And in Mask Market, that didn’t happen.
I know that if these characters existed in the real world, none of them would be “good” people. Hardly any of the characters in the Burke series are citizens. They are all criminals in one way or another. However, some of them adhere to a strict code of honor. They have a family that they care and provide for. They only hurt those that would hurt others. And with the exception of dipping into their wallets when needed, citizens are left alone. And because I admire those traits, I consider the characters that have them good. And the characters that don’t? Horrific.
So, I was upset when Beryl Preston was rewarded with freedom and an exorbitant amount of cash at the end of the novel. Preston was a character with no redeeming traits. She had no honor. She had no compassion. And she preyed upon both criminals and citizens alike. She was a sociopath. I hated her.
If Vachss bet that Preston’s history of abuse would soften the reader’s attitude toward her, then it was a gamble he should not have taken. I have never accepted a history of abuse as an excuse to abuse others. And the fact that Burke seemed to accept it by granting Preston safety at the end of the novel—to quite possibly repeat the sins of the monster claiming to be her mother—left a bitter taste in my mouth. Burke was played. He let guilt guide him. And Burke should be much wiser than that.