Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Last Run, by Greg Rucka, c2010 (hardcover, $25)

Tara Chace rocks! Or she has a head hard as a rock. Or she has rocks rattling around in her head. Or all of the above.

Tara Chace is Greg Rucka's superspy chick creation. Throughout her adventures in two books and numerous comics, Tara has escaped in the nick of time over and over. If she were a cat, she would have used up her nine lives a long time ago. Now she's finally feeling the draw of home and hearth since the birth of her daughter, Tamsin. Facing the quandary of many modern mothers -- having a job that takes her away a lot -- she balks at having her child mostly raised by a nanny. Worse yet, the danger she often leaps into might leave her daughter parentless. She has tendered her resignation as a "minder," i.e., action-adventure heroine on behalf of Queen and country, and requested quieter office duty. On the verge of making this happen, a serious situation arises in Iran and the powers-that-be say that only Tara will do.

An informer from decades past, now inactive and all but forgotten, has requested that British Intelligence extricate him from Iran. (Oh, by the way, he just happens to be the Ayatollah's nephew.) Just as freedom is within reach and Tara's improbable plan to escape with the informer is succeeding, things go, as the British say, pear-shaped. Rucka does a tremendous job keeping the tension high and the story rolling along. It was hard to put the book down. And I don't say that lightly.

Luckily, Rucka does not sacrifice character development for cinematic extravagance. Telling comments about Tara and her daughter, about Tara's boss, about the other members of Tara's team bring the story to a very human level. For instance:

"She closed her eyes, mind wandering free, instantly finding Tamsin, so far away. The fever, had it broken yet? Was she all right? Then she was seeing Tom Wallace, perfect in memory, a flight of fancy as Tara held their daughter in her arms, showing her to him. Look what we made, look at this beautiful creature we created."

The story isn't everything; people are everything. And Rucka's creations can hold their heads up high.

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