Mathew's Reviews > Private Wars

Private Wars by Greg Rucka
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Nov 19, 2008

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Read in August, 2008 , read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** Here, Tara Chace is out of the service with a baby. This is serious business given the thriller ending of the previous book, A Gentleman's Game. Meanwhile, Paul Crocker, her chain-smoking, hard ass boss deals with bureaucratic hell. His own boss is out to get him, and Tara’s replacement sends an operation into chaos. These first several chapters make for the most interesting reading in this uneven book. In particular, Crocker’s at his most compelling here as Crocker plays politics and juggles his own home life some. He tends to be the best character in the Queen & Country stories.

The rest of the thriller is set in Uzbekistan, where a dying dictator’s daughter and son squabble over who will assume control of the country. The daughter is a Machiavellian nymphomaniac whose lover is a secret police sadist. Turns out, this guy’s the real villain. So, the story pits Chace against him as she tries to smuggle the brother out of the country and maybe figure out where some rocket launchers are along the way.

The story is about Tara’s comeback to special operations and Paul Crocker’s desperation to avoid a lousy demotion. Again, Rucka is willing to do awful things to his protagonist. The effect is a build-up to Tara’s torture and near rape at the hands of the secret police antagonist. It’s tense, but it’s a no-brainer figure out Rucka won’t go that far. No rape is imminent, and her rescue is minutes away.

This willingness to torture Tara (figuratively and literally) is what makes Rucka’s writing so great. Here, it almost works as well as the previous novel. But, not quite. The plot becomes to uneven, particuarly at the fast-forward moment following Tara’s rescue. Rucka actually interrupts the narrative chapters with a psychological profile about Chace, who has post-traumatic stress disorder (who wouldn’t!) and a bloody obvious need for revenge. While a bit of interesting verisimilitude, the suspense suffers.

Of course, Tara enacts her revenge, and regains her hard edge as Britain’s finest “Minder” (Rucka’s slang for special agent). Best of all, she sneaks in one surprise decision at the close of the story that turns out to be the clearest sign that Tara Chace really is back, motherhood and all.

Originally posted at my blog,
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