Soft Target Mass Market Paperback – Aug 15 2005
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About the Author
Stephen Leather is one of the UK's most successful thriller writers. Before becoming a novelist he was a journalist for more than ten years on newspapers such as The Times, the Daily Mail and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Before that, he was employed as a biochemist for ICI, shoveled limestone in a quarry, worked as a baker, a petrol pump attendant, a barman, and worked for the Inland Revenue. He began writing full time in 1992. His bestsellers have been translated into more than ten languages. He has also written for television shows such as London's Burning, The Knock and the BBC's Murder in Mind series and two of his books, The Stretch and The Bombmaker, were filmed for TV. You can find out more from his website, www.stephenleather.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I realised that pretty early on Spider is a bloody fantastic character. He has a somewhat fractured history and with the loss of his wife he is desperately trying to balance his work life with taking care of his son. Having been so long since I read the first book it didn’t matter, as there was plenty of background info on Spider so that anybody can pick this book up and read it without having read book 1.
Spider is former SAS and now working as an undercover copper. There are two main threads to the story, one involving Spider working undercover posing as a contract killer. The second thread involves him infiltrating an elite armed police unit to try and work out who is ripping off the local drug dealers. Both threads of the story had plenty of action and it seems like Spider doesn’t even have time to breathe. It was incredibly fast paced and I found myself absorbing everything and just wishing for the best outcome. In addition to the two cases Spider works on, there is the added sub-plot of a group of terrorists planning to bomb some major places in London.
It’s been such a long time since reading book 1, I was astounded that I waited this long to read the second! Having finished this book in 2 sittings, I’m chomping at the bit to get to book 3. I actually brought books 2, 3 and 4 in one Kindle package for less than £7, which I thought was a great deal. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. This was a truly exciting and utterly compelling read.
Ex-SAS trooper Dan Shepherd is now a Detective Constable with London's Metropolitan Police seconded to a special hush-hush undercover unit tasked with missions otherwise impossible. In SOFT TARGET, the marks are a businessman and a crime lord's wife, each soliciting the murder of his partner and her husband respectively, where Dan plays killer-for-hire Tony Nelson, and a corrupt cop in the Met's elite armed response unit, which Dan joins as Stuart Marsden, that tackles armed pizza shop bandits, a gang of roving teenage thugs on the Tube, and, ultimately, Moslem suicide bombers. On his bedside table, Dan/Tony/Stu has a cell phone for each identity. Kathy Gift is the shrink assigned by Dan's boss to make sure that Shepherd, who recently lost his wife in a road accident, isn't suffering debilitating stress. Gee, why would one think that?
I gather that SOFT TARGET and HARD LANDING - the latter I have yet to read, you recall - serve as the character development bit in the evolution of author Stephen Leather's hero, whose ultimate mission in his fictional life is to foil Arab terrorists. In SOFT TARGET, there's fleeting reference to a mysterious Saudi, who travels the world on a British passport recruiting and arming suicide bombers, and who plays a major roll in COLD KILL.
I'm giving SOFT TARGET four stars not because it falls short as a thriller, but simply because it's not quite as riveting as COLD KILL, to which I gave five stars. (This reviewing gig is subjective and relative, after all.) I'm also somewhat impatient with the text space devoted to Dan's well-meaning but too often shoddy performance as a single Dad to his now motherless son, Liam. I gather Leather included this to show Dan as a regular bloke with a warm, fuzzy side to attract female readers, but the subplot never seems to go anywhere (and doesn't in COLD KILL, either). Less Liam and more Gift would've been more interesting.
Stephen tells me that there's to be a fourth Shepherd novel (in which, presumably, Dan's confrontation with Islamic nutters escalates). I'm actually looking forward to this book more than I am the first in the series because by that time the Shepherd character will have evolved to literary maturity.
The many subplots will keep you entertained as Spider swaps his identities and interweaves between them; infiltrating an elite armed police unit turned rogue who started a private war against the ‘Yardies’, taking them out, stealing their profits and selling off their drugs in Dublin.
In another sub-plot we learn of a group of Muslim fundamentalists who are planning to attack London. In the final pages Spider and our rogue cops come face-to-face with terrible danger as they race against time to track down the terrorists in London’s tube stations.
Spider Shepherd is a truly likeable character, who juggles parenthood and the role of a special undercover policeman with tremendous skill and devotion. WF
About the author: Stephen Leather is one of the UK’s most successful thriller writers, with more than two million books sold. His bestsellers, with include 10 books and seven short stories in the Spider Shepherd series, have been translated into more than ten languages. Before becoming a novelist he was a journalist for more than ten years on newspapers such as The Times and the Daily Mail. He has also written for television shows such as London’s Burning, The Knock and the BBC’s Murder in Mind series. Two of his books, The Stretch and The Bombmaker, were filmed for TV. [...]
As reviewed in the December/January 2013 issue of An Cosantóir (The Defender) The Irish Defence Forces Magazine by Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald - dfmagazine.ie - military.ie