White Lies

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I slipped into Bookazine in The Avenue to check on new titles. I did not have to look hard, coming immediately across the latest book from prolific writer Stephen Leather, “White Lies” (ISBN 978-1 444-73659-5, Hodder and Stoughton, 2014), this being the 11th in the Dan (Spider) Shepherd books. For those who have not come across this very entertaining series, Shepherd has spent his life working as an undercover agent for various British agencies, with this one being MI5.

The attention to detail is what gives Leather’s books life and vitality. The description of going at 60 knots in a rib boat is so realistic, you do feel that you really are in the boat with the characters from the thriller.

As part of his terms of employment, Shepherd has six monthly psychological assessments, and this is something that the strong nature of Leather’s hero does not particularly enjoy. (However, author Leather uses the terms psychologist and psychiatrist as if they were interchangeable – which they are not.)

No sooner have you managed to get out of the rib boat in the English Channel, Leather takes you working with a ground to air missile in Pakistan. These apparently have an optional ‘friend or foe’ setting, which means the latest missile strike on the passenger jet last month did not have one, or not deployed.

The principal plot is the holding to ransom of a young British Muslim agent in Pakistan. With this having been seen in real life this month, with an American journalist killed when ransom was not forthcoming, this added a chilling feeling to reading this book.

Dan Shepherd highlights the fact that there are so many agencies ‘out there’ that they are indeed tripping over each other, with groups such as the Covert Action Division, the Joint Intelligence Bureau, the Joint Signal Intelligence Bureau, the SS Directorate and the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, plus another five or six groups. You probably are sitting next to one as you read this book!

Author Leather has an encyclopedic knowledge of firearms and his Shepherd character trains with Heckler and Kochs (HK G3’s, and MP 5’s), Barrett M82, HK PSG1, Dragunov and Glocks. The reader is also introduced to the selection techniques for the SAS. I would have failed. So would you!

Like his previous Dan Spider Shepherd thrillers, this is a worthy follower in the series. Riveting ‘edge of the seat’ stuff that has the ability to swallow you up and place you fair into the action. Be prepared to duck at times. This is a true thriller with action that is cinematic, and in fact I can see Bruce Willis in the starring role! Meryl Streep will play Charlotte Button, his MI5 handler.

The RRP is B. 715, which is a hefty price for a paperback these days. To be honest I do not understand the pricing system. Some books are in the 400’s, and this is in the 700’s. Not that it isn’t value, but Asia Books must be trading on the fact that followers of Leather (and Shepherd) will be prepared to pay the price.