Thriller about sending a woman to do a man’s job, only to find she’s better at it than most men.
Having made his name with the Atticus Kodiak series (Shooting at Midnight, 1999, etc.), Rucka has been trying his hand in the comics genre, with the ongoing espionage series Queen and Country. Since he’s primarily a novelist, though, it made sense that eventually the star of that series, Tara Chace, would get a starring role in her own novel. The result is a solid piece of work that doesn’t immediately betray its box-and-word-balloon origins but never quite rises to the challenge of the novel form. Chace is a “Minder” with the Special Ops division of the British Secret Intelligence Service and is as handy with a garrote or sniper rifle as she is adroit at picking up and discarding one-night stands. The crisis that puts her into action here is a wide, deadly, and expertly timed assault on London’s Underground. Intel quickly points to a certain Dr. Faud bin Abdullah al Shimmari, a notorious Islamic extremist, and word comes down from the lofty perches of the realm that Faud is to be taken out. Although his opening exposition is rather clumsy, Rucka’s prose starts to hum as he makes it clear that even in a full-blooded actioner like this one, agents can’t just go winging off on missions, but that there are other considerations, and things have consequences. A complex negotiation fires up between SIS, CIA, and Mossad, all wanting a piece of Faud, and a negotiated mission is put together that sends Chace to Yemen. Complications ensue (of course), collateral damage occurs, punishment is demanded. Although A Gentleman’s Game has flashes of insight and makes a valiant stab at creating a truly independent and libidinous heroine in Chace (“This was her pleasure, more than booze or sex or smokes . . . when she knew the stakes and felt the adrenaline”), too much of the story is familiar territory.
Better-than-average writing can’t overcome a tired plot.