Tim "Sugar" Caine, a top-level thief, has been arresed for a crime he didn't commit. He could beat the rap by offering a solid alibi, but the problem is that his solid alibi is his presence at a crime he did commit, along with a couple of partners. All he has to do is give them up to the police, but Sugar isn't that kind of thief. So he spends five years in prison, and when he's out he goes to the man who planned his last job, Solly, in order to get his share of the take. Solly tells Sugar that one of the men on that last job came to him from another planner, and since that planner is now dead, Solly is worried about whether or not that man can be trusted. He wants Sugar to find out, so Sugar is off to Florida to meet with Rena, mistress of Albie, the other planner, to learn what he can about Albie's man Jessop.
Sugar is not nearly as damaged a man as Burke was, so even though he's just as hard a case his first-person narration is not as dark. In that sense, at least, Sugar's story is a lot easier to read than were some of the things Burke was involved with. But after reading a few pages of the conversations between Sugar and Solly, or Sugar and the police interrogating him, or Sugar during one of his flashbacks, it becomes pretty clear that Vachss is planning to welsh on the most basic deal between writer and reader: As readers, it's OK if we don't know where the story is going as long as we know that the author does. About 70 or so pages into The Weight, it becomes hard to believe that Vachss knows where his story is going, whether he knew how he would end it or not. Meandering dialogue, narrative-killing flashbacks, Sugar's cryptic inner monologues and Solly's even more cryptic conversations spur an urge to either flip back a page or two to see if I missed something or forward about fifty or sixty to see how this thing ends and get it on the "donate" pile.
Among Vachss' non-Burke work are two short-story collections, Born Bad and Everybody Pays. Like the novels, they are hit-and-miss, but they have a lot better average and indicate that if Vachss decided to invest some more in that format (both collections date back to the 1990s) he might produce some of his best work. The Weight, trimmed down to short story or even novella length, could have been a much better read. But as a novel, it's carrying too much extra to be worth the time.