Tuesday, August 26, 2003

'Fistful of Rain' delivers an immediate punch

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Read Greg Rucka. It's that simple. He is young, inventive, stylish and, somehow, overlooked when it comes to must-read mystery lists. But open one of his books and what you've got is a fistful of dynamite.

His latest is proof enough. A Fistful of Rain opens with little warning about what will follow. It's Halloween. A little girl is carving a pumpkin on her driveway. Her dad pulls up in his pickup. He's wearing that old, familiar beer smell. There is a domestic dispute, an exchange of angry words that ends in a bloody smear on the pavement.

Three pages. Hooked.

Jump ahead several years and welcome to Mim Bracca's world. She is famous, hungover (or still drunk), and she is alone. The details spin off in staccato bursts: the plane sliding through a wet Portland morning, a pass through customs, paparazzi and a cab ride home. Well, almost.

As it happened, a man with a gun kept me from my bed for a little longer.

Page 9.

What comes next is a blistering tale of revenge and redemption.

But it is Mim herself that elevates this far, far above the average summer fare. Smart, sexy and tough, Mim is 100 percent attitude. She is also damaged and chases her demons down with Jack Daniels straight from the bottle. Don't expect cliche one-liners. This isn't that kind of mystery.

On her self-destructive spiral, Mim is prone to blackouts that make her observations suspect. As the violence escalates and the danger ratchets up, the reader is forced to ask the same questions Mim is asking about herself. Can you trust her? Is she delusional?

Rucka takes great pains to let characters develop naturally. There is genuine surprise for the reader and Mim as she sifts through the wreckage of her life.

With Rucka's dark atmosphere and character-driven plots, comparisons to Dennis Lehane and Ross McDonald are probably unavoidable. But this is Rucka's song, and through Mim's voice he has delivered a sure hit - one with a bullet.


A Fistful of Rain by Greg Rucka

Bantam; $23.95, 305 pages


E-mail ranglen@enquirer.com

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