Book Review: ALPHA by Greg Rucka

Book: Alpha by Greg Rucka
Reviewed by: Joe T.

I first discovered Greg Rucka a few years ago when I chanced upon the first volume of his Queen and Country graphic novel series at my local Half-Price Books. An unofficial sequel to an obscure 1970s BBC spy show called Sandbaggers, it was an amazing comic and the best espionage novel I’d read in a long, long time. I was hooked and, after finding out that Rucka was a novelist, I proceeded to hunt down his books.

I read the Atticus Kodiak novels. An interesting collection of novels centered around a bodyguard to the rich and powerful, I enjoyed them but they seemed to lack a certain “frisson” that was found in the Queen and Country and, by the end, the series had turned into something else entirely. Then I read the Tara Chase books, based on the main character in the Queen and Country comic. I found them static and wordy, everything that the comic wasn’t. I was beginning to think my love for Rucka’s work was a fluke, a one-off, and then I read his newest novel (and the first in a new series) called Alpha.

The story of a terrorist attack upon a Disneyland-like theme park, Alpha is everything I wanted from a Greg Rucka novel. Taut and streamlined, focusing like a laser on the tropes of the thriller genre, it reads like a book version of the terrorist/heist flicks from the seventies such as Ransom, Day of the Jackal, and Nighthawks. On top of all this, Jad Bell, the ex-Delta Force “hero” of the book shares the cool, dispassionate professionalism with Tara Chase from the Queen and Country I had fallen in love with.

In all fairness, the plot is not all that unique. It is basically Die Hard in Disneyland. But what makes it a page turner and why I couldn’t put it down is the way he embraces what might be considered cliched plot points. He doesn’t so much as subvert the tropes of the thriller as breathe new life into them, reminding us that what made them tropes in the first place is that they work so well in the hands of a master craftsman.

So, all in all, if you’re looking for a good solid thriller or a great summer read, you can’t go wrong with Alpha by Greg Rucka. And you should also pick up the Queen and Country graphic novels. You can never read enough or too many strong espionage novels.

MysteryPeople welcomes Greg Rucka to BookPeople to speak about & sign Alpha on Thursday, May 31 7:30pm.

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