A strip-club bouncer sets out to find a dancer’s missing child in the second novel featuring the detective Ash McKenna.
Leaving New York City in the wake of tragedy, Ash turns up working in a vegan strip joint in Portland, Oregon. His vow to keep a low profile goes out the window when he’s warned not to look into the case of a dancer whose small child was taken by her junkie ex. The trail brings Ash in contact with both Mexican drug cartels and an ambitious local pol. This is familiar hard-boiled territory, but it's well executed and strikes an appealing balance, rough without being sadistic, gritty without being sordid. Ash’s reluctance to use violence to deal with his adversaries resolves itself in a way that doesn’t duck the moral quandary of pacifism, though the vengeance he finally takes isn’t presented as triumphant, either. Still, that reluctance goes on too long. Ash’s slowness in accepting that the bad guys are clearly not open to reason strains not just the credibility of the plot, but the hero’s commitment to the safety of the stripper and her daughter. Occasional lapses into sentimentality don’t detract from an engaging read, but they do fall short of the book’s best moments, which are characterized by Hart's quick and witty turns of phrase.
A novel in which a woman announces “This is the most I’ve smoked since I found out I was pregnant” is one to warm the hard-bitten cockles of a noir fan’s heart.