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By Greg Rucka

Bantam, HC, Oct. 99, (355 pp) $23.95

Reviewed by Anthony Neil Smith

When I picked up Rucka's first novel KEEPER a few years ago, I read about fifty pages and put it down, thinking I wasn't interested. But I was wrong. It's just that I wasn't ready for Rucka yet.

I am now.

With SHOOTING AT MIDNIGHT, Rucka takes a big step forward in his own series as well as in his inventiveness as a crime writer. The novel is a strong one, concentrating not on Rucka's bodyguard hero, Atticus Kodiak, but rather on Kodiak's P.I. on/off girlfriend Bridgett Logan. With her, he's created a character who's bitchy, stubborn, hardheaded, selfish, self-righteous, quick tempered, and generally rude. And thank God for that! Those qualities (along with the fact she's narrating most of the story) make her seem more real, more believable, than many P.I. super people I've seen recently who carry the weight of the world on their shoulders while checking their Never Wrong Moral Compasses. Logan makes mistakes, has questionable judgment, and tries to keep her closest friends at arms length, but when the reader hears these things from her, one is drawn in to her story.

Logan's also an ex-heroin junkie, and this case takes her too close to her old flame. She got hooked on heroin as a teenager, and when her father and uncle came to pull her out of that life and force her into rehab, she broke her father's heart by not having what it took anymore to follow her dad into the police force.

And that anger, disappointment, and regret comes out as Bridgett tries to clear a friend of murder.

Rucka writes about a new generation of the private eye, a field once dominated by middle aged loners. Logan and Kodiak are both in their late twenties/early thirties, work in a community of friends, in a modern day atmosphere that can't be mistaken for the P.I. Golden Age. He redefines the hard-boiled thriller much like Jonathan Lethem has done recently with MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN. It's nice to see writers with fresh blood on the shelves writing characters full of fresh blood, ones not yet wise or bitter but rather still young and making mistakes to learn from. That's what has to happen in order for the genre to survive and grow stronger in the 21st Century.

Highly recommended. In fact, read the whole series. Be ready for something different.

Other titles by Greg Rucka include: FINDER, KEEPER, and SMOKER.

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