Sometime detective Ash McKenna, not exactly on the run but once again headed away from stuff rather than toward it, finds that you really can’t go home again if your home is a Georgia commune.
Even though he’s put a rush on it, the new passport that’s going to take Ash far away from Portland and his latest brush with violent death (City of Rose, 2016, etc.) won’t be ready for two weeks. For lack of a better choice, he hitchhikes to South Village, the alternative community he used to call his own. The timing couldn’t be better for the arrival of an unlicensed private eye, for a resident called Crusty Pete has just fallen to his death from a rope bridge, and it looks to Ash as if his death wasn’t an accident. It also looks as if Pete was up to no good. His meager personal effects include a much-marked-up arson manual, and he seems to have been sending coded messages outside the commune. Tibo, the owner and leader of South Village, reminds Ash that skinny, clueless Gideon, not him, is the security chief, but nothing about Gideon makes Ash feel more secure. So he quietly arranges to barter forbidden meals of bacon for access to a computer he can use to get help from his friend Bombay. And after a team from the FBI, or maybe some other equally malevolent federal agency, swoops down to grab Tibo and Ash—along with longtime residents Cannabelle, Magda, Katashi, Job, Aesop, and Marx—and ply them with questions about the Soldiers of Gaia, he’s ready to take more aggressive action, even if it means unmasking the community’s fondest myths about itself.
Hart takes a good deal off the intensity of his hero’s first two adventures. The results are by turns loopy, action-packed, droll, and believable but never exactly compelling.