Book review: Queen & Country novels

A Gentleman’s Game and Private Wars by Greg Rucka

Queen & Country, from Oni Press, is a great comic book series, with a complex leading character in Tara Chace, that looks at a more realistic view of the world of modern espionage, specifically the Special Operations Section of the British Secret Intelligence Service. It was a shame that the series went on hiatus while Rucka wrote these novels and ended up as one of the architects of DC’s weekly series redefining their universe, 52, but it was worth it when I read these books.

The first, A Gentleman’s Game, is the more powerful. The story involves wahibist extremists bombing the London underground – the build up and the characters detailed with an accuracy that is overwhelming. Tara is brought in for the unofficial retaliation, doing the job too well and taking out an unfortunate (but important) witness. She is cut loose by everyone except the head of the Minders, Paul Crocker, who helps her to make amends by doing another job, which she can only do by bringing in former minder and former lover, Tom Wallace, to get the job done. The power of the real-world events (researched and presented in an engaging manner) with the personal conflict and emotional aspect that happens to Tara make this a compelling read, especially for Q&C fans, but equally riveting for novices to her world.

The second novel doesn’t have quite the emotional resonance for me as the first; it tries to draw parallels to the family situation between Tara and another major character, but it doesn’t quite connect. It involves the delicate political situation in the former Russian state of Uzbekistan and its position in the war on terror and oil. Again, the detail and suspense Rucka brings to the novel make for a fascinating and exciting read, but it feels more like one of the stories in the comic book (which are excellent), rather than the ‘special’ nature of the first book, which seemed more appropriate in novel format (life-changing events for Tara and the requirement for the intimacy of prose versus the words-and-pictures combination of the comic book).

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