Blue Gowanus - Book Review


Blue Gowanus

Author: Michael Hartnett
Genre: Fiction - Intrigue
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Date Published: September 17, 2020
ISBN-10: 1684335396
ISBN-13: 9781684335398


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Book Review of :  Blue Gowanus


 Blue Gowanus, a contemporary novel by Michael Hartnett, is a tour-de-farce and tongue-in-cheek exploration of New York City. Residents, tourists and arm-chair-travelers to New York will be intrigued by Hartnett’s extensive knowledge of the unknown underbelly of New York.The opening paragraphs introduce the main character El Buscador, the seeker or searcher, trying to escape from assassins. His fanciful escapade sets the scene and establishes the plot as well as reintroduces characters from Hartnett’s previous book, The Blue Rat. El Buscador is a self-proclaimed protector of his beloved city and dresses as a Noir 40s detective in trench coat and fedora.  He had been the city’s most exclusive tour guide leading wealthy and influential clients on clandestine tours of remarkable, hidden, historic treasures, but now he had to put that career behind as he hid from those seeking to kill him.

El Buscador’s nemesis is Timothy Terrance Tolland, a builder who he feels has destroyed the architecture of the city by bulldozing existing structures and putting up ridiculously boring, ugly high rises. Buscador believes Tolland’s success is a result of insidious corruption, money laundering, and building code violations. Operation Rat Dump was one-way Buscador fought back. That was an operation that introduces rats to Tolland’s associates’ home.  El Buscador learned that Tolland was planning, by nefarious means, to take over a stretch of Brooklyn’s  Gowanus Canal district. By passing off building blueprints by the Graffiti Sisters architectural team who had envisioned an updating of the area with a bait and switch scheme, he could take over the neighborhood.

Lurking in the “black mayonnaise” sludge at the bottom of the Gowanus Canal is a monster of urban legends.  Glimpsed rising from the toxic sewer drainage in the canal, the monster looks like a prehistoric creature that has invaded the post-industrial waters. Called the Gwaken, it is identified as a huge sturgeon. The mysterious creature adds intrigue to the plot.

Hartnett’s strange, complicated plot is enhanced by his many multi-cultural characters with distinct personalities and quirks. There is Thackeray, a “frenemy” who is a Russian triple agent, provides El Buscador with inside information on Tolland’s schemes. Nancy and JoJo owners of the worst pizza parlor selling only soggy, tasteless pizza and spinach, but who have a steady clientele at their family owned business in the declining factory district of Gowanus.  Was it because of Ganja Ganache? Then there was Pygmalion, a mural artist who rappels down the sides of the abandoned warehouses facing the canal and spray paints fabulously detailed sea life on their walls.

El Buscador slyly lets Tolland think he has vetted the proposed project as he sets about undermining his plans.  To add another layer to the story, El Buscador has not one but two love interests who not only know each other but both back up his wheeling and dealing.

Hartnett has obviously walked the streets and undergrounds of New York with an eye for fascinating history and atmosphere to add authenticity to the tale that has been crafted with his extensive vocabulary and vivid imagination. Blue Gowanus has its clichés and tropes, but they are delivered with sharp wit, and plenty of pathos as the reader is led deep into the grit and grins of the Big Apple.

Hartnett displays a satirical wizardry in his creation of his wildly imaginative gritty city tale that will entertain most readers and make them wonder what El Buscador will next have up the sleeve of his trench coat.

Reviewed by: Carole W

About Michael Hartnett


Whenever he gets a free moment, Michael Hartnett wanders around in New York City ? of late along its most toxic canal. He is the author of the precursor to this novel, The Blue Rat, plus the novels Universal Remote, The Great SAT Swindle, Generation Dementia, and Fools in the Magic Kingdom.

Visit for more information on Michael Hartnett


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