Polis Books, PB, $14.95, 270 pages, ISBN 978-1-940610-51-1
Is there any place on earth after you’ve grown up living in New York City . . . or anyplace you’d rather be . . . after growing up and living in New York City? It’s a conundrum for Ash McKenna, the self-described human wrecking ball and unskilled, but productive private investigator who’s damned good at finding people, then messing it up after that because of his “bent moral compass,” which allows him to stomp the bad guys into piles of blood and broken bones. (Honestly, no relation, but my kind of guy . . .) Ash is the noir hero and creation of author Rob Hart, whose highly-acclaimed first novel New Yorked has been followed up by his next Ash McKenna adventure: City of Rose. We catch up with Ash in Portland, Oregon where he’s keeping a low profile, working as a bouncer-janitor-barman in a vegan, all-nude strip club, and trying to put the deaths of his father and the woman he loved behind him, along with his penchant for driving people’s heads through walls and getting the crap beaten out of himself in the process. He’s resolved to keep his nose clean and purge himself of all the toxins–alcohol, nicotine and air pollutants–he’d ingested in the City of New York. He’s okay with Portland. It’s pretty, it’s laid-back and it’s clean, but it’s too quiet, it rains all the time and there’s no good pizza anywhere. Not compared to you-know-where. Ash is just trying to cope and keep a low profile, live in peace. So when Crystal, one of the strippers, asks him to help get her daughter back from her junkie boyfriend, Ash declines, hoping to keep his personal demons at bay. But soon after, Ash is held at gunpoint by a tough guy wearing a chicken mask, pistol-whipped and told to keep out of the way and not get involved with Crystal or her daughter. After the attitude adjustment–which of course awakens the inner demons he’s been trying to keep at bay–Ash reverts to his old self and is soon armpit deep in mayhem, battling a Mexican drug cartel, the man in the mask and a Machiavellian plot involving some of the city’s biggest movers and shakers as he tries to find the missing little girl.
With tough guy undertones reminiscent of Marlowe and Sam Spade, Ash McKenna’s a PI for the ages: tough and unforgiving, but with a heart of gold. This series appears to have a long way to go and I’ll be reading along with every new tale!