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City of Rose (Paperback)
Last year, I enjoyed Rob Hart’s debut, New Yorked.His hero, Ash McKenna, is an unofficial private eye, helping those who need help and who can’t go to the cops. Ash and the story were so tied up in NYC that I assumed any follow up book would also be set there. But he’s done the unlikely and taken Ash out of his native city and plopped him down near us. City of Rose takes place in Portland, OR – the Rose City. It’s a nice play on words and place.
The fun here is that Ash is completely out of his element. The city is so quiet, so polite – so cloudy! He’s trying to get used to it but it isn’t easy for him. He’s working as a bouncer and jack-of-all trades at a vegan strip joint (yep – Ash has landed in Portlandia). One of the dancers asks him for help – her ex-boyfriend has taken off with their daughter, a toddler named Rose.
Ash is in the lineage of the classic American hero who well understands that what’s most important is to act tough, to bluff your way through the mess, even when you know you’re crazy to be doing it.
“And I’m a native New Yorker with a bad attitude. Anything else is bush league.”
“You’re not looking at me right now,“ Crystal says. “But you need to know I rolled my eyes so hard I pulled something. “Do you have a death wish?”
He’s been working at the club for six months and has, so far, been able to stay out of trouble and to stay unknown to anyone. But, as he and Crystal, the girl’s mother, begin their search, they all get to know one another. Ash is without allies, without any support, so he reluctantly needs to reach out if he’s to find the girl. And the people around him are not sure what to make of him but they begin to see him for what and who he is.
The book is full of biting wit and lyrical writing. Hart has done a great job of catching the atmosphere and lunacy of Portland and make full use of it as the setting for this fine book.
The back of the book refers to Ash as having a “bent moral compass”. I’d disagree with that. He’s a man who has suffered great loss, is trying his best to stop being the violent man he’s been and to talk his way out of more trouble that always seems to be screaming at him, and to be someone others can rely on. After all, his first reaction to Crystal’s plea for help is to say no, that he can’t do what she asks any longer. He’s not that guy anymore. The thing is, he is.
Lucky us.— JB
As an amateur PI with a bent moral compass, Ash McKenna is good at finding people--but not at staying out of trouble. Between his own violent tendencies, the shadow cast by his father's death, and a self-destructive revenge quest, he made a mess of his life in NYC. Figuring it was time for a change of scenery Ash relocated to Portland, taking a job as a bouncer in a vegan strip club. And he hasn't had to hit anyone in six months.
So when one of the club's dancers asks Ash for help finding her daughter, he declines, content to keep the darkness in his past. But soon Ash is held at gunpoint by a man in a chicken mask, and told to keep away from the girls. Unfortunately Ash isn't good at following directions either.
As Ash navigates an unfamiliar city, he finds himself embroiled in a labyrinthine plot involving a ruthless drug cartel and a scandal that could reach one of the most powerful men in Portland. Ash is dead set on finding the missing girl, but realizes that in order to deliver her safely he may have to cross the one line he promised himself he never would.
About the Author
Rob Hart is author of New Yorked, the first Ash McKenna novel. He is the associate publisher at MysteriousPress.com and the class director at LitReactor. Previously, he has been a political reporter, the communications director for a politician, and a commissioner for the city of New York. Rob is the author of The Last Safe Place: A Zombie Novella, and his short stories have appeared in publications like Thuglit, NEEDLE, Shotgun Honey, All Due Respect, and Helix Literary Magazine. He lives in New York City. Visit him online at robwhart.com or at @robwhart.