Spider Shepherd

Review: Light Touch by Stephen Leather

Light Touch by Stephen Leather, Kindle Edition, Hodder & Stoughton, July 2017, 432p.

The latest instalment to the Spider Shepherd series is always a reading highlight for me, and year after year, Stephen Leather delivers on what I now consider a sacred day. My history with this series is deep, I read the first book of the series, Hard Landing, just after my mum passed away, while on holiday with my dad. I holed up in the hotel room and found solace in the action packed pages – which coincidentally dealt with Dan Shepherd losing his wife. It made me appreciate what my dad was going through, while also providing an escape from what I was feeling.

The last Spider Shepherd book, Dark Forces, is a favourite of mine, and I was worried that the follow up wouldn’t meet my high expectations. Also, as Light Touch is the fourteenth book in this series, I was worried that things would be becoming stale and overdone. That was not the case – Leather is excellent at creating tense and thrilling plots that are original and enthralling.

In Light Touch Spider is sent after a drug dealer who is importing drugs using catamarans. He is also there to check up on another undercover agent. This takes place after he helped bring down a terrorist plot in London. I found this plot to not be as strong as most of the undercover plots that are featured in Spider Shepherd novels. However, we are also introduced to ‘Lastman’ Standing, a SAS soldier with some pretty intense and hilarious anger management issues. Standing is sent to London by the SAS to undergo anger management therapy and finds himself taking down bad guys left and right while also focusing on his breathing exercises.

Spider Shepherd is my favourite fictional character. But in Light Touch, the Matt Standing story line is much more entertaining and fleshed out. It could have warranted a full novel in it’s own light, rather than stealing the limelight from Spider Shepherd. I’d love to read more novels featuring Standing – and I would also love it for there to be Spider Shepherd and ‘Lastman’ Standing crossovers, but they both had plots in this novel that deserved main plot status, and instead we had these two plots racing side by side and competing for attention. Another alternative would be to have both these strong characters working on the same plot from different angles or even as a team.

One thing that has made me a little less in love with these novels is that there is a racial undertone – almost bordering on racist – through these novels. Many of the characters take the time to express their borderline racist opinions – and although it is not Spider Shepherd who has these opinions (and he often argues against them) the obsession with race and skin colour gets old. A mention or two in a novel that features Islamic terrorism is fine and expected – but a constant commentary on racial issues gets tiresome. I imagine that for most people this wouldn’t even be mentionable, but it is something i have realised I am sensitive to, and is featured often in thriller novels.

I won’t elaborate on things that I loved about this novel in detail because it would be major spoilers for those who haven’t read previous novels – but Spider’s life has changed so much when compared to only three or four novels previously. It’s great that Leather is constantly evolving his character and making him change. It gets old quick when characters stay the same in each book, never changing. His romantic situation in this novel is a novelty for longtime Spider Shepherd readers, and although we didn’t get any interactions with Liam, his son, we were updated on what he is doing.

Light Touch is another great Spider Shepherd novel to add to the collection, and a book that I will return to in the future. I do hope we get a series of SAS novels about Matt Standing, because for my money, he is one of the most interesting characters to have existed in this universe. We have had a Lex Harper spin-off – give us a Standing one too, please!

Advertisements

Review: The Sandpit by Stephen Leather

the sandpit

The Sandpit by Stephen Leather, (Spider Shepherd, #0.5), eARC from Netgalley, May 2016, 160p.

4 out of 5 stars.

I reviewed previously:

Black Ops (Spider Shepherd, #12) 4 stars.

The Sandpit is a prequel to the Spider Shepherd series. Just a heads up, I’m not an impartial reviewer of any of Leather’s Spider Shepherd books – it’s my favourite series. Over the past couple of years, Leather has been releasing short stories of Dan ‘Spider’ Shepherd’s time in the SAS before he stumbled into his life undercover. The novels follow Dan as he goes undercover and brings down a criminal or terrorist organisation using the skills taught to him by the SAS, and to a lesser extent, the police.

The Sandpit is similar to those short stories, as opposed to the traditionally published series. That’s not to say The Sandpit is a short story – it has body and is longer than some thriller books out there. It’s just not a 500page heavyweight that the Spider Shepherd books usually are. There is more plot and intrigue in The Sandpit than any of the short stories written so far in this series.

The plot was interesting, if far fetched – it took us back in time to Afghanistan, and followed an interesting plot that although simple, drove the story forward. The best part of The Sandpit had to be returning to some of my favourite characters from previous Spider Shepherd novels, like Jimbo, Geordie and Jock. There were also the right amount of Andy McNab jokes for a book about the SAS.

The Sandpit excited me for the next Spider Shepherd novel, to the point I pre-ordered it. I also think it could be a good introduction to the series to people who usually read Andy McNab or Chris Ryan style books – the character of Dan Shepherd is similar to the protagonists from military thrillers, but he’d been dropped into the police force and assorted intelligence agencies. In The Sandpit we get Shepherd being a soldier, but still with his unique personality.

The book seemed longer than the stated 160p, it felt more like a 250p novel, but I’m not sure if that is because it was marked wrong on Amazon or that it wasn’t as easy to read as Stephen Leather’s previous books. I will happily buy any more books that Leather writes in this universe, including ones set before the ‘main’ series of books.

The Wacky Bookish Blog Tag

I’ve just stolen this book tag from littlebookblog, because I thought it was interesting.

WEIRD: THE WEIRDEST THING YOU HAVE READ

It would have to be Mrs. Beetons Book of Household Management by Isabella Beeton. In my family, everyone is gifted a copy of Mrs. Beetons Book of Household management when they move out of the family home. It includes information on how to cook 1800’s food, what is the appropriate time (and attire) for visiting neighbors. It backfired, because it made me just want to get servants (because it detailed how to manage your help.)

AMAZING: THE MOST AMAZING BOOK THAT YOU CAN’T FIND ANY OTHER WAY TO DESCRIBE

Perfume, by Patrick Suskind – It is one of my favourite books of all time, but when asked why I love it so much I usually get lost. Answering… “it’s about a guy with a great sense of smell who can smell insane things and then goes on a murdering rampage” usually doesn’t entice people to read this book!

CRAZY: A KIND OF INSANE CHARACTER

Well, I would have used Perfume as this answer, but considering my last answer I will have to go with John Stratton by Duncan Falconer. He is an SBS operative who is the most antisocial and introverted character. That’s all fine, but he seems to really enjoy killing people. The worst thing about Stratton is I kinda like him and would want to be friends with him. He needs to talk to a psychologist, ASAP.

KICK BUTT – YOUR FAVOURITE STRONG SIDE CHARACTER

Rink from the Joe Hunter series. AH RINK! My love for Rink is well documented, and I always get excited when he and Joe engage in their strange foreplay/debate/banter.

YING-YANG – TWO BOOKS THAT ARE DIFFERENT, BUT CONNECTED SOMEHOW

I am going to go with The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and Dreams of Speaking by Gail Jones. They are related because I analysed them both for a literature course, as I had to read them both for the same topic. The Gaiman book is one of my all time favourites, and I hated Dreams of Speaking more than I had ever hated a book before. Having to compare and contrast them for a paper was nigh impossible.

BOOKS – THE NUMBER OF BOOKS YOU HAVE READ SO FAR THIS YEAR

So far it’s 51 – I’m excited because I set my goodreads goal as 52 this year and I am about to hit it!

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT – YOUR OTP

This is a hard one – almost no books I read and love have strong pairings, but I will go with Quinn Colson and Lillie Virgil from the Quinn Colson series. He is in love with someone else (who is completely wrong for him!) and everyone thinks she is a lesbian (and maybe she is) but I think she likes the ex-sheriff a little too much and I silently ship them together.

ORIGINAL – THE MOST ORIGINAL BOOK BLOGGER OR BOOKTUBER YOU READ/WATCH

Hmmmm that is really hard. I’m not going to pick one, but there are a few I follow who are quite different.

GIDDY – A BOOK THAT MAKES YOU EXTREMELY HAPPY

As soon as the new Spider Shepherd book from Stephen Leather comes out my happiness levels skyrocket. It’s an addiction.

TICK-TOCK – A BOOK YOU READ EXTREMELY QUICK

Breaking Creed by Alex Kava, I sat down and started to read and finished that 400p book in a day.

ABRACADABRA – YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK THAT

HAS MAGIC

This is a hard one, because I don’t read many books with magic in them, but the only series that I actually follow that would suit this is the Jack Nightingale series by Stephen Leather. It’s a detective story meets the occult.

GECKO – THE MOST RANDOM BLOGGER/YOUTUBER YOU READ/WATCH

I’m not going to answer this one either – there are a few bloggers who I follow who are a little ‘random’, mostly people who post about their own lives and other features not book related. I think it’s a good thing, and something I always try to start doing, but never actually get around to.

Who Do You Tag?

Phew. Some of those where harder than I thought – but fun. I’m not going to tag anyone, but if you liked this tag, feel free to do it yourself and share your answers with me!

Review: Black Ops by Stephen Leather

24417606

Black Ops by Stephen Leather, Hardback, July 2015, 400p.

4 stars

I pre-order every Stephen Leather book that is published, and Black Ops validated that somewhat expensive luxury to me. Black Ops is everything a thriller should be – fast, tight and exhilarating. I’ve felt that the last couple of Spider Shepherd books have been fun and enjoyable but starting to play by a familiar formula. Stephen Leather writes books to that formula better than any other author, in my humble opinion, and that is why I enjoy these books so much, but Black Ops broke from that formula slightly and shines because of it.

Personally, I loved that Black Ops had so many plotlines and was more intricate than most other thrillers, despite this, I didn’t find it hard to follow or heavy. The multiple subplots were excellently handled and juggled for maximum thrills. I loved the involvement of Liam, Spider’s son. Every time Liam is involved in a plot, I feel like the drama is notched up another level. Of the cast that were included in this book, all my favourite characters got parts with the exception of one tassel shoed American.

Much of Black Ops seemed to be concerned with building up the character of Lex Harper, who I do really enjoy – and I am hoping that Lex gets spun off into his own series. However, I’m always concerned that it will mean I don’t get to see my favourite characters feature in their own books. I want Lex to be a spin off series, not a replacement one! So I’m a little anxious about that. I also love all of the job offers that Spider had thrown his way through the last couple of books, so maybe we would see him in that side career that is being constantly hinted at? That would be interesting, but I’m afraid a little out of character. This review most likely makes little sense to someone who hasn’t read any Spider books.

I powered through Black Ops during some of the busiest weeks of my year, and it was the perfect break from stress. I really struggled to decide if it was a four star or five star read for me, but I usually reserve 5 star reads to my favourite of my favourites – and although I did enjoy this book it didn’t quite make it to that level. I’ve rated a few Spider books 5 stars in the past, and recommend this series to anyone who likes fast paced thrillers, my only advice is to start with the first book, Hard Landing, because there is quite the retinue of characters in the later books.