False Friends


Stephen Leather has obviously been hard at work and his latest Dan (Spider) Shepherd thriller is now in the Big C Extra Bookazine shelves (and all the other Bookazines I am sure.)  This is the ninth thriller featuring Spider Shepherd and has just been released (ISBN -0-340-92500-3, Hodder and Stoughton, 2012).

Leather is well known in many Pattaya circles, spending much time here each year, most probably studying the local crimes, giving his books the necessary realism.  And realism is Leather’s forte, heightened by mixing fact and fiction.

Leather can not only impart realism to situations and places, but he gives the readers excellent insights into the characters in the book.  His boss “Charlie” I could swear I had met, and the agonizing mental anguish on falling in love with the woman of your dreams is something we have all experienced.

False Friends begins in an American helicopter on a surprise raid upon the compound of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.  The hero, Spider Shepherd, is on board as a UK observer, and the details of the attack are just so exact in their minutiae, you begin to question your own memory of the event – was there a UK observer as well as the American Navy Seals?  Then around half way through the book, Leather introduces right wing extremist Anders Breivik.  Fact – yes Fiction – no Faction – somewhere in between?

The main plot surrounds two Islamic fundamentalist young men, who have had no training in espionage, but because of their backgrounds have been selected to become spies by the MI5.  It is Shepherd’s job to protect and train them.

Fans of the Spider Shepherd series will be pleased to welcome back one of Shepherd’s laconic mates, “Razor” Sharpe.  An example of Leather’s approach to writing is the fact that you “know” all his characters.  A real author.

Leather is not beyond some social commentary in this book.  One of the two young fundamentalists telling Shepherd, “And whoever thought that Guantanamo Bay was a good idea should be taken out and shot.  It produced a whole generation of Muslims who really do believe that America is evil.”  And an Army Major discussing the American military incidence of friendly fire by commenting that, “Friendly fire ranks right up there with military intelligence in the tautology hit parade, doesn’t it?”

Politicians and bankers get their fair share of flak, as does Tony Blair and George Dubbya.  It is almost as if you are in a pub with Spider Shepherd and discussing the rights and wrongs in this world with the usual bar room philosophers.

The pace increases Hell for Leather (sorry, I couldn’t help myself there) and I was unable to stop reading, snarling at any interruptions.  The description of a murder by suffocation has you spell-bound.  Be warned: this book is not for the squeamish.

A thriller in every way, you won’t get many more thrills than False Friends.  Worth every baht of the 688 RRP.  And the book is printed on large pages and using a large font to make it easier for those over 40!