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Soft Target Paperback – Aug 15 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder (Aug. 15 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340834099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340834091
  • Product Dimensions: 10.9 x 3.4 x 17.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 299 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #345,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“A gripping read, the equal of anything of its kind being published on either side of the Atlantic.” —The Irish Times

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,

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Boy's own adventure Nov. 18 2005
By Beverley Strong - Published on
Format: Paperback
Just as some books are rather scathingly called "chick lit", this is the very opposite, a boy's own adventure, culminating in the story of the London terrorist bombings of recent times. Dan Sheperd is an undercover cop who is sent into all kinds of secret assignments. A former SAS member who is still coming to terms with the loss of his wife in a car accident, he is slotted into a group of SO19 police officers who handle special situation problems, but who are suspected of having a few loose cannons among their members. Dan is still operating as a so called hit man, in an effort to expose a big time mobster, whose wife conveniently wants him dead and has hired Dan in his role as hit man, to do the job. The SO19 cops who have gone bad, accept Dan into their ranks and plan their next coup against drug dealers, hoping to make some big money. The author has followed the real plot of the Muslim extremists in their plan to blow up the underground railway system in London and has included lots of technical details about the weaponry of both the police, the terrorists and their training programs. It's a good, fast read, even though it will probably appeal more to the boys.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A whopping cell phone bill, no doubt Nov. 4 2006
By Joseph Haschka - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It wasn't until I was well into SOFT TARGET that I realized it's apparently the second in the Dan Shepherd series. The third installment, COLD KILL, I'd read some months ago - see my review "How hardball do we play it" dated 6/29/06 - and the first, HARD LANDING, awaits on my unread shelf. I wish I'd read them in order, but who was to know? As I recall, even the Hardy Boys mysteries of my youth were sequentially numbered on the jacket.

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.
I realised that pretty early on Spider is a bloody fantastic character July 23 2014
By Best Crime Books - Published on
Format: Paperback
I need to start by explaining that I am exactly 11 books and 9 years behind in the Spider Shepherd series so I figured it was high time I started to catch up. As soon as I started I only got as far as 5 chapters in and it was game over, nothing in my house was getting cleaned, no dinner cooked and no TV watched. I realised that I have been seriously depriving myself by not reading these and ploughed on and finished this in just 2 days (well a girl has to work and pay bills after all).

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.
Read the first in the series first --- trust me on this! April 2 2014
By Hey, Teach - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great series --- the author adds humor to the detective novel. Read the first in the series for background information about Spider Shepherd. The setting is London and the surrounding area - this adds to the enjoyment of the novel. Jack is a widower, a top-notch cop, and a father - frantically he has his hands full solving crime.

NOTE: Stephen Leather also wrote another mystery/supernatural series with Jack Nightengale as his protagonist. This, too is a great series.
Spider Shepherd a truly likeable character who juggles parenthood and undercover police work with tremendous skill and devotion Nov. 27 2013
By waynefitz - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Ex-SAS trooper turned undercover cop ‘Spider’ Shepherd returns in Stephen Leather’s the second book of his bestselling series. In ‘Soft Target’ Spider is playing the role of killer-for-hire to two unsuspecting friends; one who wants to do away with his business partner and a gangster’s wife who wants rid of her violent spouse.

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 - -