Asher (Olivia Jane Doe, 2013) proves he has what it takes to make an entertaining book about noble lowlifes and con games.
Kip hadn’t seen his brother Jack in 10 years before showing up at his bar in Naples, Florida, hoping to land a job. A decade before, Jack left Ohio and his family behind in a flurry of kiss-offs and bad blood; he became somewhat of a legend for opening up his own bar, so much so that restless younger brother Kip reaches out to him for a job. When Kip meets Jack and his bodyguard, Carter, known as the “Cowboy,” it’s clear that Jack is into some shady dealings. The Riot Bar is off the beaten path but frequented by the worst element in town, all of whom seem to know Jack. Kip wants that for himself, and Jack reluctantly agrees to take him under his wing. Complications crop up immediately, as it seems Jack has some debts and personal drama, chiefly with a fresh-in-town 18-year-old firecracker of a woman nicknamed Davie. She’s involved with Jack, who doesn’t take well to fidelity. Things quickly go south. Kip develops a bit of a crush on cunning and inscrutable Davie, and he agrees to her scheme to win over his brother via a plan that includes shaking down a connected nightclub owner. The pace picks up on a wonderfully amusing ride with pitch-perfect dialogue and twists that come up too quickly to predict. Asher’s chief talent is his ear for dialogue. Conversations are snappy and have the smart-alecky feel of solid crime noir. Personalities emerge through dialogue as well as action, and Asher’s narrative wastes little time dwelling on anyone’s inner monologue save Kip’s. The narrative is stylized and sarcastic—perhaps a drawback for some readers, but it fits the tone of the book perfectly. For instance, after a character has been beaten to a bloody mess, he holds a gun to the people who administered the blows: “He pointed the gun, but did so with staggering laziness. But the gun was pointed. However lackluster it was didn’t seem to matter. A gun tends to do that.”
Asher has a great voice for crime fiction; hopefully he’ll use it frequently.