I need to start with the good because there’s a lot of goodwill built in this book or else I wouldn’t have been able to stomach it for 20 pages.
Rob Hart knows New York City. Knows it. Not in a way a smarmy lifer traipsing through endless aristocratic watering holes knows it. But the way a native does. Favorite bars, corner stores, slice stops…he brings it alive in a real way. I could see and feel the city, one I’m missing right now with everything shut down due to COVID. I read a lot of novels just for the Manhattan tourism and this is one of the better ones. That he picks the Lower East Side to set most of the book is all the better.
And that’s the only thing that got me through. Because this book is a reminder of why I rarely start mystery series with alcoholic male PIs anymore: tough guy dialogue, lots of fighting scenes, obnoxious expressions of masculinity. I couldn’t stand Ash McKenna. He’s an insufferable knucklehead who, of course, can’t let go of his past and thus must take his anger out on the world. Hart does a great job building up interesting characters around him only to have Ash go stumbling through their respective worlds like a bull in a glass shop. I couldn’t stand it, couldn’t stand his connection to the murder victim (an attractive young woman slashed to ribbons because of course), couldn’t stand the try hard-y nature of McKenna trying to be Philip Marlowe (there’s a Long Goodbye reference here that made me audibly groan). I thought the resolution was going to go one way that I would’ve liked but of course, it didn’t.
So yeah, I love the New York-ness of this book. And Hart is a talented enough writer that I may pick up book two in spite of itself. But man, this should have been so much better.