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A Gentleman’s Game (2004)

When an unthinkable act of terror devastates London, nothing will stop Tara Chace from hunting down those responsible. Her job is simple: stop the terrorists before they strike a second time. To succeed, she’ll do anything and everything it takes—only this time the personal stakes will be higher than ever before. For the terrorist counterstrike will require that Tara allow herself to be used as bait by the government she serves. This time she’s turning her very life into a weapon that can be used only once. But as she and her former mentor race toward destiny at a remote terrorist training camp in Saudi Arabia, Tara begins to question just who’s pulling the trigger—and who’s the real enemy. In this new kind of war, betrayal can take any form…including one’s duty to queen and country.

Based on the graphic novel series that won the coveted Eisner Award, A Gentleman’s Game is an electrifyingly realistic, headline-stealing thriller with an unforgettable protagonist—one who redefines every rule she doesn’t shatter.

Read an excerpt.

Release information

Bantam US hardcover September 2004 ISBN 0553802763
Bantam US mass-market paperback July 2005 ISBN 0553584928
Bantam US e-book (Adobe Reader) September 2004 ISBN B000658TIE
Bantam US e-book (Microsoft Reader) September 2004 ISBN B000658W1S


Inspired by his Eisner Award-winning Queen & Country graphic novel series, the author of the adrenaline-charged Atticus Kodiac thrillers (Critical Space) offers up this British cloak-and-dagger hardcover introducing Tara Chase, an intrepid, relentless female assassin. In a coolly orchestrated terrorist raid chillingly reminiscent of September 11, a well-trained trio of al Qaeda-linked fanatics bomb London subway trains at three major stations, killing 372. In retaliation, Minder One (the head assassin of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service) Tara Chase is given the assignment of killing Dr. Faud bin Abdullah al-Shimmari, a Saudi Arabian religious leader. She can’t undertake an operation inside Faud’s high-security Saudi homeland, but when the Mossad gets involved on a mission of its own, the hit is scheduled to take place on Yemeni soil. In a bit of bad luck, Chase completes her primary mission with a daring hit on Faud inside the Great Mosque, but ignites international outrage when she blows away a Saudi prince, too. As a result, her queen and countrymen betray her, and she is forced to flee with one final chance to avoid being sacrificed as a pawn in a worldwide political chess game…. The novel’s superb pacing, offbeat characters, wry plot twists and damning insight into oily schizoid Middle Eastern diplomacy add up to an engrossing read.
—Publishers Weekly

A series of firebombs go off in the London Underground — the smoke alone kills hundreds and paralyzes the city. Once the culprits are ID’d as Muslim extremists with ties to al-Qaeda, Tara Chace joins other British intelligence operatives on the bleeding edge of the government’s hastily conceived response. By mining the world of his award-winning Q&C comics, Rucka has crafted his finest novel yet. Game is the rare spy thriller that rewards patient readers with action that feels earned, not forced, with facts that feel researched, not made up, and with revelations that cause shivers, not disbelief (e.g., a certain CIA analyst becoming president). And it doesn’t hurt that Chace is the most tough-as-nails-but-still-shag-worthy secret agent since Mata Hari.
—Entertainment Weekly

Is it small-minded to point out that Greg Rucka’s new spy series has the definite rhythms and verbal shortcuts of the graphic novels from which it sprang? I think not: Rucka’s most famous work–his series about world-class bodyguard Atticus Kodiak–had the same populist flavor, a zest and imagination often lacking in books with just words in them. So for Rucka to turn his “Queen & Country” graphic-novel series into a pictureless book does have a piquancy and appropriateness.

For someone who has been watching “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and “Smiley’s People” on DVD of late, part of the amazement is how much the image of British espionage has changed in 30 years. Even James Bond’s cinemacentric adventures look quaint compared to the chores Tara Chace–as Minder One, the chart-topping lead assassin for the British Secret Service–has to get through in a day’s work. No time for a well-shaken martini here: Chace is lucky if she can find time to gulp down a sandwich before going after some particularly virulent terrorists.

When these Al Qaeda fanatics set off three petrol bombs in London’s subways, 372 people are killed and Chace is turned loose on a Saudi citizen who orchestrated the attacks. Unfortunately, a Saudi prince is also killed in the retaliation–and her queen and country quickly drop Chace like a packet of overcooked chips and deny any involvement.

Some reviewers might say Rucka is too sharp and original a thriller writer for this kind of stuff. Presumably, he has a family to feed and mortgage payments to keep up. And if they look beyond the graphic novel (I gather that the term “comic book” is no longer acceptable) aspect, these reviewers will notice that a true professional is at work here.
—Chicago Tribune

A Gentleman’s Game is as engrossing and well-crafted a thriller as you are likely to read this year.
—David Montgomery for the Chicago Sun-Times

It’s what would happen if Mickey Spillane and Ian Fleming decided to write a book together. In other words, it’s Greg Rucka writing a thriller his way — which is a very good thing.
—Statesman Journal

Full of action and other rare pleasures—a modern homage cum sendup of the British spy novels that shaped many of our literary lives. Tara Chace, Rucka’s fierce and frolicsome new head of Special Operations for British intelligence, is a lovely combination of steel and sex, and his story—originally published long before London’s recent terrorist horrors—becomes especially timely because of them. Look up the word “professional” in that great crime-genre encyclopedia in the sky, you’d probably find Greg Rucka’s picture.
—Chicago Tribune, reviewing the paperback edition