"Smoker" by Greg Rucka
Review by Lily Gardner

I've always suspected that the stoic detective was an easy out for the writer. Write about a sleuth who observes and doesn't feel? Admit it -- that takes a lot of the fuss out of the story.

Greg Rucka gives us a different kind of tough guy. His name is Atticus Kodiak. He moons over his lost love, mourns the death of his friend and colleague, and finds a lot missing emotionally with his current squeeze. He's a man who feels the consequences of his choices, but he's marching, and it's the marching that makes him a tough guy in my book. And on the subject of tough, let me just say, there are some women in this story you wouldn't want to cross.

Atticus is tasked with providing security for Jeremiah Pugh, the prosecution's chief witness in a trial against Big Tobacco. Two attempts have been made on Pugh's life, the second one so ingenious it's believed that one of the ten deadliest assassins in the world has been hired to take Pugh out. The assassin is completely anonymous. No one has been able to identify his age, nationality or even his preferred method of killing. He is known simply as John Doe.

If that wasn't enough for Atticus to handle, he's forced to work hand-in-hand with Elliot Trent, the not-so-bright owner of a private security firm, Sentinel Guards. Trent has never liked Atticus and probably likes him a whole lot less now that Atticus is schtupping Trent's only daughter.

The stakes are high for Atticus: save Pugh and save his own life and those of his co-workers against the threat of John Doe. Save Pugh and take out Big Tobacco. Save Pugh and restore his shredded reputation from previous failures.

It's worth reading to see if Atticus triumphs and to discover the identity of John Doe. The issue I had with the story is Jeremiah Pugh. I can't decide whether he's not believable or if I just don't like him. He does all these weird, unexplainable things, like making a show of drinking vodka from sun-up to sun-down in front of his bodyguards. He lets Atticus in on his secret: he's watered down the booze. Why? If this had a point, it went zoom -- over my head. Then there's Pugh's plan to commit suicide as soon as he has given his testimony. All this does is lower the story stakes for me.

And like me, Atticus is dismayed with Pugh. Here he is, risking his life and the lives of his team to save this guy against the deadliest killer in the world. And Pugh plans to off himself as soon as it's over?

But we want Atticus to triumph. We like him. He's tough.

Smoker ..Buy this book .Buy the audiobook
By Greg Rucka
Bantam, copyright 1998.

Thrilling Detective Reviewer-at-Large Lily Gardner grew up in Minneapolis longing to be blonde and live in California surfing and writing poetry. Over the years her tastes changed: California became Oregon and poetry became mysteries. She learned to embrace her brunette self. Lily loves all things noir, fermentation, Motown, opera, and short-legged dogs.

She currently lives in Portland with her husband, two corgis, several thousand books and one electronic reader.
A Bitch Called Hope, a noir mystery set on the rainy streets of Portland, is Lily's first novel and featuring private eye Lennox Cooper. She is currently working on her second Cooper noir: Betting Blind.

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