Finder – Greg Rucka

3 out of 5

Greg Rucka put himself into a tough spot with what would turn out to be the first of several Atticus Kodiak books, Keeper; it’s possible there wasn’t a direct sequel in mind at the time, but regardless, he badgered his lead – a bodyguard, tossed into the middle of a growingly violent debate on abortion rights – into a corner that would be quite hard to crawl out from. And indeed, when we start Finder, though Rucka uses the tactic he started the previous book with, of tossing us right in the middle of some action, it peters out moderately unspectacularly, and we then discover that Atticus has switched from personal protection work to… bouncer.

As a character journey, this definitely makes sense, but Greg, dutiful in trying to script Kodiak convincingly, doesn’t just drop a case in his bodyguard’s lap to pull him back into the game: when the daughter of an ex-love requires protection from both parents, to the extent that there are dueling SAS groups involved, trying to snatch the girl for one or the other, Atticus is incredibly hesitant to get involved, and Rucka takes us through about 100 pages of him putting off the task, slowly learning more and more about what’s going on, until he can no longer ignore it. This indirectly creates a bit of false tension, adding mystery to the parental dispute and making the book feel like it’s going to be about more than it is, which just delays the acceptance that it’s not; there are some twists and turns, but not in any large, over-arching, “this changes everything” sense. Which isn’t to say that the storyline’s development isn’t uninteresting – Greg’s grasp of character and setting is still incredibly sharp; we know these people after a few sentences, and dialogue sequences are just as visual as the action.

But the state of Finder is perpetually on the backfoot: Atticus is somewhat on the outs with current girlfriend Bridgett throughout; he’s on the outs with others he needs to recruit to his cause for protecting the girls; and he knows he’s out of his league versus these SAS crews. Instead of ratcheting up things, it makes events feel slightly plodding at points, and also like we’ve not quite “started” the story until past the halfway point, when pieces finally start to fall into place and Kodiak can focus on the protection detail.

The tone of Finder absolutely makes sense, and it would have been cheap feeling if we skipped out on some of these steps. But something about the combination of required character work and a somewhat overly mystified plot makes for an uphill climb, Greg keeping us following along thanks to his strength as a scripter of very immersive fictional peoples and worlds, but it’s still not necessarily exciting until we reach the hill’s crest, can appreciate the ascent, and then hang on for the ride down the other side.