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on 14 December 2010
I initially bought the Kindle book because it was such a bargain at 49p but was not sure I would like it as it is not my usual kind of book. I started to read it and was totally hooked from the start. The story builds up quite slowly but this is not a negative point as the suspense is just right. The characters are very well defined and the you can almost feel the atmosphere of the prison. The 'baddies' are truly bad and you just know they are going to get their come uppance. Spider Shepherd is a tricky lead character as he is not all 'good' and you get the sense of a complicated past which I expect we discover more of in later books.

I am a total convert and can't wait for the rest to be Kindleised (hopefully at a reasonable price too).
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HARD LANDING was the first in the Stephen Leather's series of thrillers starring Dan "Spider" Shepherd, an ex-SAS trooper now assigned to an elite Metropolitan police unit tabbed for deep undercover operations when the usual enforcement methods can't nab the bad guys. Dan's nickname came to be while on an SAS survival training mission and he won a bet on who could eat the most disgusting thing. One normally doesn't see "tarantula" on the menu even in the greasiest curry house.

HARD LANDING was followed by SOFT TARGET and COLD KILL, all three of which I've unintentionally read in reverse order. I'd recommend reading the first book first since, if nothing else, the series is a character development exercise for the protagonist.

Here, Spider is tossed into one of Her Majesty's maximum security prisons after establishing his cover as an armed desperado on an airport warehouse hold-up gone bad. Dan's mission is to nail big-time drug trafficker Gerald Carpenter, currently in the same lock-up awaiting trial. Carpenter is somehow communicating with the outside and masterminding the quashing of evidence and killing of witnesses that would otherwise convict him. Fearing Gerald will ultimately go free, Shepherd's job is to identify the leak and thus ensure Carpenter's conviction.

Spider's job prevents him from having a normal home life with his wife Sue and son Liam, a fact that causes the inevitable friction with the former and neglect of the latter and which is exacerbated by a tragedy that occurs while Dan is behind bars. I previously mentioned in my review of SOFT TARGET (dated 11/4/06 and entitled "A whopping cell phone bill, no doubt") that the author perhaps dwelled too much on Spider's spotty relationship with his son, which caused me to knock off a star from that otherwise splendid tale. With Shepherd, I'm looking for hard-boiled action not agonized soul-searching. (My other favorite fictional Tough Guy, Lee Child's Jack Reacher, never ever moons about engaging in self-castigating guilt trips.) I gave COLD KILL five stars (dated 6/29 06 and entitled "How hardball do we play it?") because it maximized the action and minimized the hand-wringing, and I'm giving HARD LANDING a full allocation of points for the same reason.

Until commencing with the Dan Shepherd series, Leather had pretty much eschewed an ongoing hero beyond a couple of books. With Spider, Stephen has struck gold, and I'm eagerly awaiting the fourth installment, HOT BLOOD.
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on 27 June 2014
It's a great read. I'm reading all the Spider Shepherd stories and waited until now before reviewing. As I've enjoyed them all so far take this review as a series review.
Spider Shepherd (what a good name--just a hint of comic book hero in Spider and Shepherd--a man who guards the flock against the wolves and other predators) is ex-SAS turned undercover cop with an impressive range of helpful contacts on whom to call when things get rough, a wonderfully drawn tough guy in touch with his feminine side, racked often by the internal conflict between duty and morality. Like Chandler's hero Philip Marlowe, he walks the mean streets but is not demeaned. Leather knows his philosophers and frequently gives us the classical conundrums posed by them for the moral man, as did Chandler.
The plotting is deft and reliance on coincidences is minimal, the characters convincing and thoroughly enjoyable. There is a wonderfully drawn and detailed completely amoral American who specialises in information retrieval by any means possible and whose plots make Machiavelli's Prince a naive schoolboy. Charlotte Button is a double-first intellectual on the way to command MI5 is Spider's official boss whom he ignores when it suits him but who is his conscience made flesh--and what flesh. So plenty of unresolved sexual tension there and with the beautiful Slovenian au pair turned permanent house-keeper. Plenty of good supporting parts, too, including a terrific non-PC best mate.
Spider has similarities to Jack Reacher, the American ex-soldier turned roaming detective but Spider is much more rounded, human yet professional and believable.
Occasionally, Leather slips into didacticism and we get some pages of technical notes, which I find intrusive and an interruption to the narrative, but I'm not a weapons geek. No doubt the market research shows many readers like this level of detail and it may lend verisimilitude for them.
I'd recommend any of the Spider Shepherd series. Read in order they are effectively one long book and the characters develop and change with time and experience, to add further depths to what is already an enthralling series.
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on 27 November 2013
International bestselling author Stephen Leather's first `Spider' Shepherd thriller `Hard Landing' is set inside Belmarsh Prison, a category `A' prison used for high-profile cases, including convicted terrorists. In this hardhitting tale, Shepherd, a former SAS trooper, is part of a deep undercover police squad tasked by the Home Office.

Using the cover of being on remand as a hardened armed robber, Shepherd must get close to his mark, a notorious drug baron who continues to run his illegal operation from behind bars, harassing and killing witnesses to stop any trial. Shepherd must establish who is on the crime-lord's payroll, including inmates and prison officers, in this notorious top-security prison.

Be warned, this hard-man tale has a tear-jerking parting shot; so keep the hankies handy! 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 - -
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on 3 August 2006
This is typical Stephen Leather. Fast, well written, absorbing plot and difficult to put down! Even my wife, who is not a great reader couldn't resist this one! Thoroughly recommended as are all his other novels.
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on 12 December 2010
Reading this on Kindle, I was really confused by the way the chapters ran into one another; this meant that at times there didn't seem to be any connection between sentences~in fact at first I wondered if the book had downloaded correctly. I did get used to this disjointed approach but it spoilt a fairly good story. Can`t really complain as book only cost pennies but still feel it should be formatted correctly.
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on 10 February 2016
An excellent first novel, featuring ex-SAS soldier, and now under-cover police agent, Dan 'Spider' Shepherd.

The plot develops from the 'off', and doesn't lag at all throughout the book ; Despite most of the story being set in one main location (a secure prison) the narrative doesn't drag or become heavy ; from a third of the way in it became so compulsive that it was difficult to put down.

The characters are interesting and well developed, and despite being set within one main location the narrative doesn't drag or become heavy.

Description of life in a Category A prison seems very real, and would suggest an incredible amount of research on the author's part.

The plot is gritty and very believable until the final few chapters, where a 'James Bond' style assault takes place to capture the villain ; This closure tends to suspend belief somewhat, but heck - it is a novel, and a very enjoyable and entertaining one at that!

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the novels in the series, and hope they will be as good as this first one - another book that could be made into an excellent film or tv-series.
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on 11 March 2014
Those who prefer more literary fare such as Seb Faulks may well be disappointed with this series from Stephen Leather. (Me? I like both.) But, if you fancy a page turner with a good story, believable characters and a fair share of excitement then this is probably a book for you.

Spider Shepherd - the main character- has the staying power to support a series of stories such as the one that 'Hard Landing' commences. The well structured mix of his (at times) violent career and his personal life of husband and father, a la 'Sopranos,' makes for thoroughly enjoyable reading.

I'd listened to two of the later books in this series in audio-book form and been well impressed with them. I therefore decided to read the series from the beginning, and get introduced to the characters properly. And I'm well pleased that I did.
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on 15 February 2011
Hard Landing: The First Spider Shepherd Thriller (A Dan Shepherd Mystery) I'm very surprised at the number of people that have given this book a 5 star rating. It was mildly entertaining, enough for me to finish reading it, but was very cliched and full of stereotypes. It wasn't especially well written and the characters were one dimensional. The end seemed so rushed, it was almost as if the author had got bored himself. I know it only cost 49p but that shouldn't impact upon the rating. Like I said, I read the book to the end so it was OK but not as great as a 5 star rating would imply.
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on 25 June 2013
Enjoyable page turner with a new hero, a British jack reacher. Undercover cop spider shepherd is an interesting lead character with plenty of room to develop and has enough interest to lead this and other books.
The book is quite formulaic but that doesn't mean it's not enjoyable.

The lack of chapters on the kindle format is somewhat aggravating and there are some minor gaps in the story but I really am splitting hairs here, once you get over this , you find the story well worth it.

At 49p for the kindle offering this really is a bargain and I look forward to the next episode as its certainly good enough to make you want to read more
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