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DEAD MEN (The 5th Spider Shepherd Thriller)
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
"I've been asked to give you a call to reassure you that we are aware of the approach that has recently been made to you by your American counterparts ...The fight against terrorism is one that we have to absolutely have to win. There's no question about that. And sometimes measures have to be taken that fall outside the remit of our law enforcement agencies ... We're very grateful for the work you've done for us in the past, your exemplary army career and the excellent job you've done as a police officer and with SOCA. There's no pressure on you to accept the offer that has been made. All I'm doing is calling to let you know that if you do accept, you do so with our blessing and that you will be accorded whatever protection we're able to offer. Subject to total deniability, of course." - A late night call from the Prime Minister in DEAD MEN

This is the best Dan Shepherd thriller to date. Nicknamed "Spider" because he once ate a tarantula on a SAS survival exercise, Dan is in danger of perhaps losing his relative innocence in the next book of the series. The stage is set in DEAD MEN.

This installment of Shepherd's career against assorted Bad Guys is at once better than some previous ones because the action alternates back and forth between two equally absorbing and heavy-hitting storylines, both of which achieve well developed and satisfying conclusions. Subplots in previous books, e.g. HOT BLOOD, have been known to sputter out in deference to the main plot.

Here, Shepherd, an ex-SAS trooper now working undercover for the United Kingdom's Serious Organized Crime Unit (SOCA), is assigned by his boss, Charlotte Button, to find the person responsible for murdering several ex-Irish Republican Army members, all involved in the execution of a Royal Ulster Constabulary officer, Robert Carter, several years previous. The Irish are now protected by the British government in deference to a cease fire agreement with the IRA. The chief suspect in the latest killings, which have so far eliminated four of Carter's five executioners, is Carter's wife, Elaine. Dan must get close enough to her to obtain either damning or exculpating evidence regarding her involvement.

In the meantime, Saudi sheikh Othman bin Mahmuud al-Ahmed hires the accomplished Muslim killer-for-hire Hassan Salih to assassinate the two individuals involved in the interrogation of Othman's terrorist son, Abdal Jabbaar, a couple of years previous, the methods of which interrogation included the torture death of Jabbaar's younger brother, Rahmaan, and assault on Jabbaar's sister, Kamilah. Jabbaar was subsequently imprisoned at Guantanamo and ultimately committed suicide. CIA officer Richard Yokely, reluctantly assisted by Charlotte Button, conducted the original interrogation (the details of which can be found in the Dan Shepherd thriller COLD KILL). Salih's brief is to torture to death both Yokely and Button.

Because of Button's involvement in both of DEAD MEN's concurrent plots, so too is Spider.

Yokely is perhaps the most intriguing character. Like his hunter Salih, Richard is coldly effective, Machiavellian, and willing to do whatever it takes, however unethical by normal standards, to do his job, which is protect the USA and its allies. Richard also has friends in very high places, which adds a sinister element to his power. But, of course, Yokely is on America's and Britain's side in its battle against Islamic jihadism, so he perhaps has the Western reader's good will. Nevertheless, both Yokely and Salih are predatory, vicious wolves.

DEAD MEN is, obviously, a work of fiction written for its entertainment value. But author Stephen Leather is also presenting a moral dilemma. Just how unscrupulous and hardball do the guardians of Western society play it against those that would bring that society down? Perhaps the author himself has yet to answer that to his own satisfaction. In any case, the conundrum is presented by contrasting Shepherd, who's careful to limit his (sometimes lethal) violence to what's more or less legally sanctioned, and Yokely, who most certainly does not. Also, there are the answers Dan himself provides to the moral choice questions presented to him by Caroline Stockman, SOCA's resident shrink charged with evaluating the operational fitness of that agency's operatives.

DEAD MEN stands alone both as an edge-of-your seat nail-biter and as a possible preview of Shepherd's way through Yokely's shadow world. How will the call to duty play out?
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2010
Once upon a time, there was a new thriller writer on the block, who wrote in a refreshing style and his books were set in good locations. That writer was of course Stephen Leather, and now here is his Dan Shepherd book number 5.
Prior to Dan Shepard, all of Stephen Leather's books were 'one-offs', but for some reason he has decided to 'run' with a character. And while this book is as fast paced as most of his other books, it is also nothing special, because, in my mind, Stephen Leather has taken the easy route. When a series of books is written featuring a 'Star ' character, the character is usually developed over the course.
But the reader hardly knows any more about Dan Shepard now than in 'Hard Landing'( the first Dan Shepherd book ).
In a word the character lacks depth. I use for comparison Rankin's 'Rebus' and Billingham's 'Thorne'. Two characters that gradually almost became real. But all we seem to know about Dan Shepherd is that he's ex SAS, is a widower and has a son, and of course he's a very hard man. That's not much character development over 5 books. It's a shame because Stephen Leather has the talent to write so much better. Check out his earlier books such as The Chinaman, The Solitary Man, The Vets, The Bombmaker,Tango One and The Eyewitness. All very original and unique. Unfortunately, with Dan Shepherd, Stephen Leather has lost that uniqueness and originality. Come on Mr Leather, go back to your true writing talent.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2014
I'm still working my way through the Spider novels and this one was as good as the others, an intriguing mix between terrorism in Northern Ireland and Arab world terrorism. Plenty of action and some good accounts of the dilemmas between good and bad....how far should the good guys go to protect the innocent from the bad guys etc. good stuff once again Mr Leather!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2008
Leather delivers another great Spider adventure. Here we have 2 plots which as expected converge with Spider and a whole host of action. Spider is undercover in Belfast watching/ getting close to a widow who is suspected of taking revenge on a group of ex-IRA guys who killed her husband. At the same time his boss Button, and the covert U.S. black ops Yokely are on an rich Arab's hitlist. I gave 3 stars as I preferred the tension from Hot Blood.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 December 2013
Stephen Leather is an outstanding author. His Spider shepherd series is simply brilliant, insightful and addictive. Whilst some of his other material appears to be based around the Spider Shepherd character - they are all still as addictive and interesting. Highly recommend any books by this author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 August 2013
Stephen Leather created a brilliant character in Spider Sheppard. I have enjoyed reading all of the books in the series and have just finished reading the 10th one. Hoping for book eleven.

I have just started to read the Jack Nightingale series also by Stephen Leather.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2013
Yet another book that I could not put down and found the storylines & characters totally believable. The idea of having to protect former terrorists was a great idea.
I appreciate that I am biased as a huge Stephen Leather fan but go on give it a go!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2013
I am loving this books , it's sometimes hard to put down. The writer captures the characters individual nature really well and it's nice that whilst there is a new plot with every book, I enjoy the continuation of Dan Shepherd's life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2013
Stephen Leather is just fantastic as a thriller writer. These books just get better and better, riveting plots and believable characters. Always look forward to the next instalment, and when I get it I cannot put it down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 April 2013
Another great read from Stephen Leather and the fifth in the Spider Sheperd series. Good to read the series in order as the main characters develope through the series. Good fun and not too heavy.
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