I first became acquainted with Greg Rucka’s work through comic books and graphic novels. Ironically enough, he was just starting to write for a number of the Batman titles as I was slowly beginning to curtail my visits to the comics store; one of the last titles I bought and read was his original series, Queen & Country. I discovered that he had been writing novels all along (not quite sure how I missed that), so I devoured his backlist, all the while pleased to discover that these books were as good as or, in some cases, better than his comic work. While the speed of Rucka’s output varies, the quality does not. Well into his second decade of writing, his books are impossible to set aside from their opening sentences.
"Regular readers of Rucka’s work will know that there is much more to BRAVO than explosions, karate and intrigue. He is one heck of a writer, capable of changing a perception or a mood with a subtle sentence or two."
BRAVO is the second of his Jad Bell novels, commencing almost immediately after the conclusion of ALPHA, the inaugural title. Bell, an extremely capable ex-Special Forces operative, is tasked with apprehending the man who almost succeeded in carrying out what would have been a devastating terrorist attack on United States soil. Bell and his fellow special-ops team members were successful in foiling it, but they want not only the man who put it into action but also the individual (nicknamed the Architect) who so meticulously and brilliantly planned it. Their hope is that they ultimately will reach the people who financed the operation.
That is a long climb, however, and along the way the hunt coalesces around two women. One is a United States special agent who has been operating under very deep cover for so long that her loyalties and motives may be suspect. The other is the Architect’s lover, who is both the enigmatic figure’s strength and sole weakness.
What Bell quickly comes to discover is that, since the first attack was foiled, a second terrorist act has been planned and set in motion already. You want a ticking clock plot point? Rucka gives you one that you can hear all through the house. Actually, he gives you more than one, given that the Architect, thanks to the people who have hired him, knows all about Bell and his team. Rucka is adept at throwing plot twists and turns at the reader when least expected; as a result, BRAVO is full to bursting with heart-stopping moments whereby one pauses and thinks, “No. That didn’t really happen.” In most (but not all) cases, it really did. This would apply to the book’s ending, which kind of turns everything sideways and sets things up for what is almost certain to come in subsequent volumes.
Regular readers of Rucka’s work will know that there is much more to BRAVO than explosions, karate and intrigue. He is one heck of a writer, capable of changing a perception or a mood with a subtle sentence or two. To name but one, there is an extremely short vignette near the end that involves the Architect and a bicycle. It’s very simple, yet shows another side to the Architect that is totally unexpected. That’s all I’m going to tell you about it, other than to say that it’s worth reading the entire book just to get to that one scene. If Rucka is not already at or near the top of your must-read list, then BRAVO should put him there.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 25, 2014