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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

Critical Space

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 relations.

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.

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