From the back of the 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 people who have been damaged past the point of no return. The result is Andrew Vachss's most compelling work to date, the thriller reimagined as a bleak romance of the damned.
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 give it 5 stars. I think this is due to the quite separate courses the plot forks - firstly in the dark and seedy clubs of the adult industry - strippers, prostitutes, pimps and beat downs, then on to the white supremacy inner circle as 'Ghost' becomes right hand to a racist movement, all for the purpose of chasing down Shella, a woman he hasn't known since before his incarceration.
SHELLA is standard Vachss - it wont win hearts but it will darken them and that's just the way I like my noir.