Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Nothing Gentlemanly Happens in Greg Rucka's A Gentleman's Game

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Readers who have been following me for a long time know that I have a penchant for spy thrillers that probably stems from hours of watching those wonderful old cold war TV shows of the sixties like Mission Impossible or my favorite, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Then there was John LeCarre. After that I discovered the British TV show MI-5 and became addicted. So when my friend Don, a graphic novel aficionado, told me about Greg Rucka's Queen and Country series, I had to give it a try.
Originally developed as a comic, three books resulted in this series, one of several that Mr. Rucka, who must write 24/7 to keep all the balls in the air, has penned over the past fifteen years. http://www.gregrucka.com/wp/ His versatility and output is phenomenal. But what both Don and I appreciate about him is his ability to craft formidable, believable female characters with guts and heart.
Tara Chace, a brainiac with a knack for languages, was chosen directly out of college to work for Her Majesty's Secret Service. But there was no way she was going to be satisfied stuck behind a desk interpreting code. She wanted the hand to hand combat training, excelled at rifle and pistol work, and begged to be placed in "special services." Think James Bond without the swagger.
By virtue of the job description, trained assassins seldom stay on the job for long, and within eighteen months Tara is the head "minder" of three, people whose lives are expendable to the top brass, who keep a "go bag" with a change of clothes on hand at all times, and who are stealthily parachuted into war zones knowing that if they're caught they will may be acknowledged by their mother country.
So it is that after London's underground was attacked by terrorists Chace is called in to get vengeance. The problem is that professionals, especially women, make easy enemies along the way and she has raised the ire of a competing organization. When more than one country is involved in negotiations - in this case the CIA and Israel's Mossad - things get even dicier.
It's no surprise that Rucka writes for TV and film as well. His narrative style is rapidly paced. You can read this book in a sit down or two and visualize it all on the big screen at the same time. He attends to every detail with precision and if his characters seem a little jaded, well you get it. You can be pretty sure that all the machinations taking place behind the scenes, the not so secret meetings between various factions of the secret services, the handlers and the government, are all too true.
"A Gentleman's Game" is the first of the three Tara Chace novels and I guarantee I'll be squeezing the other two in, between assignments from "Library Journal." It's smart, sexy, and timely, addressing the scourge of jihad without damning Islam.

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