Reviewed: May 17, 2007
By: Greg Rucka
Publisher: Bantam Books
503 pages, $9.99
Greg Rucka is a very busy scribe who
has just finished being part of the writing team on an ambitious comic book
project - a weekly book called 52 - for DC Comics. He has also been the writer
for a wide variety of books, including Superman, Batman, Spider-man and the
Aside from that work, he has produced
a number of thriller genre novels, including six volumes in the Atticus Kodiak
series, one of which I have reviewed here, and a second series called Queen
and Country, which enjoys a narrative existence in two worlds.
ONI press publishes the comic book
version of Queen and Country. I havenít seen any of these, although the material
on the authorís website looks interesting.
There have also been two novels, and
Private Wars is the second of these.
The Queen and Country series chronicles
the work of Tara Chace, a British secret service agent who is a Minder (assassin,
special ops agent) for that unnamed agency. There are three Minders and Chace
is apparently ranked number 2 or 1, depending on which book youíre reading.
I have not seen A Gentlemanís Game,
but it apparently tells the story of an operation gone sour, which ended up
with Chace injured and pregnant and with her lover dead. Private Wars
contains sufficient backstory to allow us to move on with the character and
not feel lost.
Predictably, it is the story of how
Chace returns to the service, and how she deals with the demons she needs
to exorcise after her last bad experience.
The novel does not focus on her exclusively.
In a style reminiscent of the early John LeCarre novels or the work of John
Gardner (the British spy writer, not the American novelist and academic) Rucka
has us spend time with Chaceís boss, with her enemies, and with some supporting
cast characters who provide us with insights we might not otherwise have.
There are essentially two operations
in this story, both of which take place mostly in the former Soviet puppet
state of Uzbekistan, which is portrayed here as being run by a family based
oligarchy masked by an illusion of democracy and held together by the use
of military force and secret police black ops. The strongman leader, President
Malikov, is dying, and various western nations are choosing sides as to who
they will back, the son or the daughter, to succeed him. In the midst of all
this, the British and the Americans chose different sides and Chace is sent
in to rescue the son, Ruslan, and his son, Stefan, from the machinations of
Severa and her head of security, Zahidov.
That plan goes badly and Chace is taken
during the operation, saved only by the intervention of the Americans. Later,
however, she is the best choice to assist in negotiations to reunite Ruslan
and his son after Severa has consolidated her power base.
Aside from Chaceís own challenges in
Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, where she has to chose between her assignment
and her urge to settle some private scores, we are privy to the internal office
politics and power struggles within the Secret Intelligence Service, a sidebar
plot which adds a bit of spice to the story.