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4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  1,307 ratings  ·  58 reviews
From the author of the acclaimed Burke private-eye series comes an ambitious and chilling novel that shows us not only what evil is, but where it comes from. For Shella is nothing less than a tour of evil's spawning ground, conducted by one of its natural predators.

He is called "Ghost" because he is so nondescript as to be invisible and because he slays with such reflexive
Hardcover, 225 pages
Published March 31st 1993 by Knopf
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"The first time I killed someone I was scared. Not scared to be doing it. I did it because I was scared. Shella told me it was like that for her the first time she had sex. I Was fifteen that first time. Shella was nine."

Yeah that's the opening paragraph to this incredible piece of remorseless noir.

For those of you already in the know about Andrew Vachss it might not come as a surprise, however I hadn't read any before now and even that paragraph being the main focus of the cover art of this edi
It is always interesting to see the seedy side of life from those that live it. And when pulp fiction turns its gaze to the darker characters to take the reigns and tell thier stories, it makes for great reading and a bunch of fun.

This story revolves around Ghost, a mysterious man that is willing to do anything to find Shella, possibly the only person who ever saw beneath his veneer of cruelty and coldness. Through his story, the reader is given a great firsthand account of why evil happens, fr
I got deceived by some of the reviews. For example there's one that mentions the first paragraph:

The first time I killed someone I was scared. Not scared to be doing it. I did it because I was scared. Shella told me it was like that for her the first time she had sex. I Was fifteen that first time. Shella was nine.

Plus a realistic love story between a couple of violent and twisted psychopaths... It can't get much better than that! But while that holds true, the writing killed it for me. Mostly t
The book's dedication to Iceberg Slim is the first tip off--this is a gritty, dark tale. John "Ghost" Smith, the narrator/protagonist, is an assassin for hire who enjoys watching nature programs on TV. He befriends, loses, and then searches for Shella, a worldly prostitute. Both are damaged humans, what helps make their tale intriguing enough. If you like your crime fiction raw, then this should be a good read.
By far my favorite book by Andrew Vachss. I'm almost sorry I started with this novel, because after it, the "Burke" novels (basically everything else Vachss has written) just can't match it's power (though they are good, if a bit repetitive.)

Vachss is a really interesting guy, and not your average author. Here is his description from Wikipedia:

Andrew Henry Vachss (born 1942) is an American crime fiction author, child protection consultant, and attorney exclusively representing children and youth
Julia Madeleine
I recently discovered Andrew Vachss's noir thriller Shella and started reading it with really no expectations other than that it sounded like my kind of read. By the time I closed the book I was half way through it. I finished it in the next sit. And wow...this book is the bomb! The writing style got it's hooks into my immediately. It's lean. It's mean. It's dirty.

Shella is the story of John Smith aptly nicknamed Ghost, a depraved cast-off grown up tough in in the system, who makes his living k
David Ward
Shella by Andrew Vachss (Alfred A. Knopf 1993) (Fiction - Mystery/Noir) is a stand-alone novel from the author of the acclaimed "Burke" series. It is written in the same genre as Vachss'other work: Noir with a capital "N." Shella tells the story of "Ghost," who is a denizen of the underbelly that Andrew Vachss knows so well. Shella is the girl that Ghost left behind when he went in to serve his latest stretch in the penitentiary; the current novel is the story of Ghost's search for Shella after ...more
Vachss has to be one of (if not THE) most consistently dark and intense writers of crime thrillers I've ever read, so I was expecting some grim stuff in the pages of this book but I was still surprised at how truly traumatic things got in this relatively short novel. Obviously the Burke novels often get pretty fucked up but they still have some levity to them, mostly in the form of comic-book feeling stuff like complex DIY gadgetry and an obsession with martial arts and of course Burke's "family ...more
Raegan Butcher
Andrew Vachss is a superb writer. His prose is spare and lean and this novel is even more stark and minimalist than his Burke novels. This one features a hitman named "ghost" and charts similar territory as the Burke series.
I originally read SHELLA is May 2010 (thanks Goodreads for assisting my reader memory) and my 2014 re-read pretty much leaves me feeling the same as back then. SHELLA is a satisfying read, if, perhaps not everyone's poison.

A tale of three stanzas intertwined by an overlapping theme of violence, heartache, and pain, SHELLA forecasts storm clouds and doesn't fail to deliver a downpour.

Probably one of the best noir's I've read, SHELLA, seemingly delivers on all fronts yet for some reason I can't
This was recommended to me a while ago when I was looking for something scary to read. Yep. It was scary and pretty realistic too, I think. It has pretty much every real- life scary thing you can think of: neo-nazi’s, horribly abused sex-trade workers, scary hit men, prison rapes, murders of every sort, gangsters, well you name it- Shella’s got it.
Ghost (we never know his real name) is a talented (and severely troubled) hit man that grew up hard in the system. First in an orphanage and later in
Larry Bassett
Because this is Vachss, the book is filled with adults who were abused children. The first paragraph:

The first time I killed someone, I was scared. Not scared to be doing it – I did it because I was scared.
Shella told me it was like that for her the first time she had sex.
I was fifteen that first time. Shella was nine.

I am not sure what to call it if each “chapter” is marked by a diamond or a club or a spade and many chapters are only a few short paragraphs. Maybe a book for a guy with a short
Tim Niland
For a killer named Ghost and an emotionally damaged woman named Shella, life on the run was all they ever knew. When things finally caught up to them and Ghost was sent to prison for three years for manslaughter, he assumed Shella would be there waiting for him when he was released. He was wrong, and embarks on a harrowing cross country trip to find out the fate of the only woman he has ever loved. This is a haunting (no pun intended) and strangely moving tale and much like Vachss other books (p ...more
Guy Salvidge
Shella is a crime novel featuring a disturbed (and disturbing) protagonist. He goes by the name of Ghost sometimes and he is really good at killing people with his bare hands. I reckon he kills twenty people in this book. Our narrator has also had a bad upbringing (he's been in institutions) so we begin to understand the nature of his ailment. But he's still a cold-blooded killer. His motivation is that he wants to get back to Shella (his girlfriend from before he was incarcerated) and people ke ...more
Bark's Book Nonsense
Vachss writing is spare and brutally to the point, the man doesn't waste a word. The world he writes about is bleak, devastating and brutal. In Shella he delves into the world of a young boy abandoned, living with fear and the constant threat of abuse, who grew up to be a cold-hearted, brutal killer for hire known as Ghost. Only Shella, a street toughened dancer, ever saw beneath the hard shell. They are separated when Ghost is thrown in jail. When he's released his only goal is to find Shella.

Sometimes I will pick up a book impulsively without knowing much about it. This one did look sinister, but I had just finished The Panopticon which wasn't exactly light reading so I thought I was in the right mind space for it. Nope. This piece of grim fiction is going right back to its little free library. For. Get. It. Prose was direct, had an interesting view point, but the characters involved are utterly without humor. Dark, dismal, depressing. Evil people, terrible circumstances. I understa ...more
Sara Gran
I went to a friend's house the other day and a copy of one of my books was right next to SHELLA on his bookshelf. I am rarely proud of myself, but that was one of my proudest moments. READ THIS BOOK.
He is called "Ghost" because he is so nondescript as to be invisible and because he slays with such reflexive ease that he might be one of the dead. Once he traveled with a woman who was called "Shella" -- because those who had treated her as a horrendously ill-used child had tried to make her come out of her shell. Now Shella has vanished in a wilderness of strip clubs and peep shows, and Ghost is looking for her, guided by a killer's instinct and the recognition that can only exist between two ...more
i can't believe people actually like this book! it just went on and on about absolutely nothing. which is pretty sad considering the book cover is pretty nice and all.
Jim A
This is not a Burke novel, but a pretty good stand alone that Vachss wrote, I'm guessing to take a break from Burke.
This is the most depressing book I’ve ever read. Yet the author left me wanting more. His other books, after a quick search, appear to be mainly detective stories. I don’t like that genre but as soon as I can get a couple bars on my Nook, I’ll be downloading a couple to see if Vachss can keep me turning pages as fast as he did in “Shella.” (I’ll have to add a ‘dick lit’ shelf on my ereader. Wonder what my husband will make of that.)

Back to “Shella.” The protagonist is called Ghost because they n
Theresa Leone Davidson
This engrossing little story is told in first person by the central character, who goes by either Ghost or John, a professional contract killer who is an oddly sympathetic character. He is in love with Shella, a woman who at times has worked as an exotic dancer/prostitute/dominatrix, who has disappeared while Ghost/John was in prison, and the story is all about his search for her. Both characters, it is implied, have endured such horrendous abuse that they are not normal; Shella describes Ghost/ ...more
Cath Murphy
So my holiday reads weren't exactly lightweight... ...but they were awesome especially as they were both picked for me by Rob Hart, my podcast partner, from the shelves of Mysterious Bookshop in Tribeca where he works.

Since Rob lives in New York and I live in Norway, it was a special treat to not only get to meet him, but to take away two fantastic books to devour in between travelling and sightseeing.

If I had to pick a favourite it would be Todd Robinson's The Hard Bounce which while deeply har
Sam Hager
Dark violent and a hell of a page turner. Not for the faint of heart, for those that can stomach realistic portrait of evil and violence.
Ben Loory
We finally fell asleep. When I opened my eyes, it was after one o'clock. Misty was sleeping on her belly next to me, my belt wrapped around her wrists, looped over the bedpost. I touched a spot on her neck and she came around.

"What's all this?" I asked her, pulling on the belt.

"I didn't want to wake you up, baby. So I tied myself up. I know it's stupid... I mean, I could get out of it and all... but I thought you'd feel better if you got up and saw me like this."

"It's okay," I told her. "You don
Stephen Wood
Beyond dark. Violent. Awesome read, just mentally prepare yourself for NO sunshine.
Gritty, minimalist noir. I completely loved this book but I seriously do not recommend it to everyone. I will admit I love ultra-violence, in books and film. This book is slightly different. This is the kind of violence that is real, and it is ten times scarier than a horror movie. People can truly be monsters and Vachss writes them very well. If you cannot handle a realistic slice of life from the underbelly, don't read it. If you can, READ ON!

I finished this book in one day. Felt a little sick
What the hell did I just read and who the hell is Shella??? Wth??
This was Vachss' first one-off from the Burke series in which he tells the story of Ghost, a dyed-in-the-wool killer who can do nothing else and yet feels no enmity towards any of his marks. He meets a girl, Shella, who changes his life, but his inability to emote (caused again by the harsh terror of Vachss' real-life world) leaves him ill-prepared to manage his love. Great read. Vachss' description from Ghost's point of view about how he sees "red dots" on all the people he's about to kill is a ...more
Nathan Shumate
The feel-good story of the year!
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Andrew Vachss has been a federal investigator in sexually transmitted diseases, a social-services caseworker, a labor organizer, and has directed a maximum-security prison for “aggressive-violent” youth. Now a lawyer in private practice, he represents children and youths exclusively. He is the author of numerous novels, including the Burke series, two collections of short stories, and a wide varie ...more
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