Fair Game


Stephen Leather is one of the world’s most prolific writers of fiction, and spends much time in Thailand each year.  Recuperating?  Or looking for a new plot?  I think the correct answer is ‘both’ with some of Thailand’s more notable people appearing in his books over the last few years.  And note “Chris Thatcher’s” description, which fits the BCCT’s Chris Thatcher to a T.

This week’s reviewed book is Fair Game (ISBN 978-1-444-71617-7, Hodder and Stoughton, 2011) and is another of his Dan (Spider) Shepherd thrillers.

Author Leather gains much of the believability in his plots by highlighting the human failings in the society.  Dan (Spider) Shepherd learns that both the MI5 and the SAS had operatives on the same case, but unknown to each other.  “So no one had the big picture, is that what you’re saying?” said Spider to his boss.  “If that’s the case, it’s no wonder that things go wrong.”

The political side of life in the international world of ‘spooks’ is shown to be as devious as the groups they are trying to infiltrate.  In response to Spider’s asking about the international political situation he is told, “If we have him in prison on criminal charges and the US apply for extradition, it’ll be a lot easier to hand him over.  It’s one thing for the human rights brigade to shout about the rights of a poor refugee, but they’re less likely to get hot under the collar about a Somali pirate with terrorist links.”  Leather does express opinions on the ease in which “refugees” are given British passports by the authorities.  He is not alone in that regard.

Other factors used by Leather include his recording of detail which gives immediacy (making the reader take part in the plot) such as his description of a set of stairs leading to an upper office.  “The stair carpet on the lower flight of stairs was torn in places, but there was no carpet at all on the upper section, just bare boards that were cracked and chipped and which squeaked with every step he took.”

Leather has also spent much time checking his facts as to life on board a large ship, as well as the different guns and rifles.  I am sure he is an expert on an AK 47 if nothing else.  But he throws in a bolt action Mosin Nagant for good measure.

In this book, you follow Spider into an ambush in Northern Ireland, and then through to an office in London, and on to a yacht which is taken by Somali pirates, to an enormous container ship carrying arms to Yemen, to Somalia and an assassination attempt in the UK.

The large part of the book is on board the ship, as Spider gets into even more danger, but that itself is not the end to this thriller.

For far more than a weekend’s read, the RRP of B. 385 for 500 pages makes it a bargain – and a thrilling bargain at that.  It would be difficult not to be enthusiastic over a book of this depth and excitement factor.