FOR YEARS NOW, MYSTERY WRITER Robert B. Parker's Spenser has had the sass-and-sensitivity niche pretty much to himself. But here's 25-year-old Greg Rucka coming on strong with an impressive debut. Hired by women's health-clinic operator Dr. Felice Romero to protect her from a lunatic pro-lifer, battered but unbowed bodyguard Atticus Kodiak wades into the abortion debate at the wrong end of a sniper's sights. His sidekick is a nose-ringed, Porsche-driving P.I., Bridgett Logan, who calls him "stud," and thinks Green Day is "bitchin'."
Atticus knows his stuff—like the fastest way to shield a "subject" with his body and which gun (a hammerless HK P7) is best to use when firing with one hand. But what lifts Kodiak beyond the hard-bitten stereotypes of the detective genre is loss. When Romero's 12-year-old daughter Katie, an engaging innocent who has Down syndrome, is gunned down on his watch, Kodiak comes roaring out of his den, making Keeper, well, one to hang on to. (Bantam, $21.95).