cover image Smoker


Greg Rucka. Bantam Books, $22.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-553-10716-6

Vulnerable macho heroes are always in demand. Here, as in his two previous outings (Finder and Keeper), Rucka's Atticus Kodiak fits the bill in spite of his unlikely name. A personal security specialist (""bodyguard"" to the unenlightened) with a bad rep from a botched job, Atticus parlays a new job offer from fellow bodyguard Elliott Trent into a flush gig protecting a ""smoking gun"" witness from an international assassin hired by Big Tobacco. Anti-tobacco lawyers fortify a Westchester mansion to keep the witness alive, and Kodiak and Trent share guard duties in a very uneasy (and suspenseful) peace. Trent's daughter, Natalie, a bodyguard herself and heir to Trent's sizable firm, adds fuel to the fire as Kodiak's secret lover and new business partner after a rift with Dad. This doesn't please Erika (Kodiak's teen ward), who is pulling for his estranged lover, Bridgett. The assassin's attempts, when they come, show evidence of an inside job and open a can of narrative worms so deftly deployed that readers will bite nearly every hook. Rucka juggles a large cast and complex plot with aplomb and packs enough real action and character depth to please a wide audience. Every nuance--from high-tech security gizmos to personality quirks, the New York setting, and the surprising range of women characters--complicates and deepens Atticus's victorious return. (Nov.)