Reviewed: January 26, 2005
By: Greg Rucka
Publisher: Bantam Books
90 pages, $10.99
I have encountered Greg Rucka as a writer in a number of different comic book
series, so when this book came along, I was curious to see how he held up
without the pictures to complete the story. It turns out he spins a good yarn
and has apparently been doing so for some years now. There are four previous
books on his backlist, and all of them feature Atticus Kodiak.
Atticus is one of the partners in KTMH Security, a personal protection
agency. We could call them bodyguards, and they do that kind of work, but the
overall operation is more complex than that. If everything works out well none
of the partners or their operatives will ever have to put their bodies between
their clients and a bullet.
In an earlier case KTMH had run into a loosely knit group of international
assassins called the Ten, and had thwarted the plans of one of them, a very
dangerous woman who goes by the code name of Drama. As a result of that case, an
enterprising reporter named Chris Havel had been able to write a best-selling
book about those events, exposing a piece of the underside of international
The Ten, as it turned out, were not happy to see one of their number exposed
to any degree at all, and their displeasure was about to become problematic.
In the meantime KTMH has moved on to more mundane cases, and it is at one of
these where we find Atticus, clearly having been mistaken for a flunky, refusing
to carry the bags of a spoiled brat of a movie star, and walking out on the
contract. A bodyguard, after all, has to keep both hands free for saving his or
her client, and staying within that critical distance needed to offer
protection. Anyone who can't understand that, or who thinks that bodyguards are
all about window dressing, should not hire one.
That's probably the most amusing thing that happens in this novel, which is
full of plot twists and turns. It emerges that Drama, being considered a failure
now, is on the Ten's hit list, and she wants to acquire the services of the man
who beat her so that she can survive.
I'm not going to tell you how she goes about hiring Atticus, or what happens
after. Suffice it to say that Atticus is not quite at the standard she needs him
to be, and some training is involved. It should also, I suppose, be noted that
real bodyguards do not have romances with their employers, even though close
association between two people who admire each other's skills might produce a
fair amount of sexual tension.
That's not to say that there isn't a bit of the old Stockholm Syndrome going
on here, or that Atticus is entirely himself after many weeks under the tutelage
of a woman who made her first kill in an orphanage when she was eight years old.
The other partners are not impressed with their new client, and the future of
the agency is in some doubt as the story progresses. Still, when push comes to
shove, old comrades do tend to close ranks.
There seem to be quite a few books on the market featuring people in this
line of work lately. It could be one of the spin-offs from 9/11, I suppose but,
if so, the material on the market won't make you feel any safer. A lot of the
"best laid plans of mice and men gang aft awry (hey, it's Rabbie
Burns birthday this week) in these stories and a lot of blood gets shed before
things are resolved.
Then too, people seem to have to make a lot of heavy ethical choices in this
sort of tale, and they're usually not entirely happy with themselves at the end
of the day.
That would be the case here, too.