Rob Hart’s The Woman From Prague (Polis Books) opens with Ash McKenna living in Prague, an escape from the States to help deal with his demons — self-inflicted or otherwise thrown his way. Working as a jack-of-all trades for a temporary apartment rental company, McKenna cleans, fixes and manages the units spread-out throughout Prague. This set-up gives McKenna the time to explore the city as well as examine what in his life that has brought him to this place.
A few pages into the book, McKenna’s world comes to a crashing halt when three men to visit and “offer” him a job. With a viable threat against his mother’s life, McKenna reluctantly has to take the job — the stealing of some information from a banker who turns out to be the woman from Prague.
The job ends up not being that simple — obviously — and, in short order, everything goes haywire for McKenna. What should have been a smash and grab turns into McKenna fleeing for his life while still trying to protect his mother from 4,000 miles away. And now The Woman From Prague begins in earnest as a man on the run story.
Hart has created something deeper than the usual thriller superhero. As McKenna tells it, “I’ve been in a lot of fights. Some I won, some I lost, but I always walked away. This might be the one where I don’t.” McKenna’s reactions to the situations that surround him are more fight or flight. He has no arsenal of talents that he can use to overpower or outsmart his opponents, rather he relies on his New York moxie and charm, though the New Yorker in him gets him punched more often than not. What McKenna lacks in spy smarts and lethal brawn is what makes Hart’s The Woman From Prague succeed as a page-turning thriller. When done well, as in this book, the reader always roots for the everyman hero punching above his weight.