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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
In LIVE FIRE, author Stephen Leather's hero of several novels, Dan "Spider" Shepherd, an undercover operative with Her Majesty's Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA), is off to Thailand to infiltrate a Pattaya-based British gang of master bank robbers that periodically returns home to replenish the funds for its exorbitant lifestyle. Meantime in London, a home-grown cell of Muslim jihadists is planning a bloody outrage that'll kill hundreds. Because of Spider's particular karma, the two plots ultimately intersect.

Leather spends much of his time living in Thailand. Therefore, it's no surprise that the storyline of LIVE FIRE puts Shepherd there for most of the narrative, but is somewhat surprising that the author has taken so long in the series to do so. Leather's physical description of Pattaya and its status as "the biggest single prostitution center in the world" suggests a comfortable familiarity with the place. (For a depiction of the Thai sex industry, see Stephen's excellent novel, Private Dancer.)

For readers whose first encounter with Spider is LIVE FIRE, the plot deserves 5 stars. For one such as me, who's followed his exploits over the years, it rates perhaps 4. The Shepherd character has perhaps become too familiar and/or I've become jaded.

In order to introduce the new reader to Dan's career path with SOCA, the narrative inevitably begins with the end game of a crime caper from which Spider must extract himself as the cops close in but before his cover is blown. Then, he immediately gets new marching orders to follow for the duration of the story from his boss, Charlotte "Charlie" Button. Subsequently, there are a couple pages in which Dan, a single father, has a guilt trip when he tells his young son, Liam, and his dead wife's parents that he's off on another job and won't be around to spend quality time. (While I know this digression establishes Spider's just-a-regular-bloke humanity to newbies, perhaps next time we could move forward a decade when Liam is interested in girls and won't miss Dad so much.)

It's in LIVE FIRE that Dan is first inferred to be carrying a torch for his boss, Charlie Button, for which telling evidence surfaces during a visit to one of Pattaya's bars:

"There were two pneumatic blondes dancing topless and a stunning redhead in a red thong and high heels doing a solo on the second podium ... Two more girls joined the redhead. One was a blonde with wavy hair, green eyes and milk-white flawless skin, the other a brunette with a pageboy hair-cut and dark brown eyes. She was like Charlotte Button, Shepherd thought, disconcerted.

'You like her?' asked Sergei.

Shepherd reddened like a schoolboy who'd been caught looking at a pornographic magazine. 'She's fit,' he said."

Now, I bring this up because I think Button one of the more intriguing characters of the Spider series. Plus, I suspect that she's hot. So I'd like to take the cheeky liberty of suggesting to the author the emphasis of a future book, i.e. that the narrative focus be on Charlie with Spider as an ancillary character. Thus, the saga of the latter can continue, albeit through the perspective of someone else, while a different facet of Dan's world can be developed and the repetitive mold of the series as a whole broken. Thinking outside the box.

Alternatively, some act of violence by one of the jihadist groups fermenting in the U.K. might seriously cripple or kill Liam. The emotional devastation could transform Shepherd into an agent of vengeance. One of Leather's first books, The Chinaman (Stephen Leather Thrillers), took that general approach, and it was one of his best reads.

Are you with me on this, Stephen?

All of this said, I'll keep reading installments of the Spider series for as long as they continue to be penned; I'll even put them ahead of any of Andy McNab's thrillers in the unread queue on my bookshelf.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 28 February 2009
Another solid outing for Spider, this time going undercover to join a group of bank-robbers in Pattaya, Thailand which is home territory (Private Dancer) for Leather and he covers the sordid resort well and with some amusement as Razor manages to enjoy himself. The robbers attempts to buy some RPG's crosses a plot with some British born Muslim terrosists similarly buying weapons to cause havoc at home. Spider has to charm and deceive the felons as well as stop a terrorist attack, in a plot that becomes as spicy as good Tom Yum Goong. A fine read even if a tad rushed and far-fetched at the end. For those who enjoy Thai crime try Jake Needham or John Burdett's books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2013
Continuing on with the Spider Shepherd saga. Live Fire deals with the SOCA agent infiltration of the Moores, a group of brothers responsible for a series of major robberies, and is Spiders mission to bring the brothers to justice.
Also as part of the story involves a plot by a group of islamic terrorists to destroy an aircraft, a quirk in the story was that one of the terrorists was white.
Like Leathers other books, the plot is addictive and is as good as Ryan and McNab at this genre of writing and the story is a real page turner. The story interconnects between Spider and the terrorist Bradshaw with the two confronting each other in a nail biting climax.
If you like pulsating blockbusters that throw you from pillar to post then Leathers books are for you. If you like something more sedate I suggest taking up knitting.
A worthy inclusion to the Spider Shepherd series of books. 8\10.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2014
I'm reading the Spider novels in order interspersed with the short stories if his SAS exploits which give background to the character. I enjoyed this one as I have been to Pattaya in Thailand and the description in so accurate about what a seedy place it is and the ex pats there.
There are two tales here.....one of Spiders undercover assignment ...and another of a terrorist plot which he uncovers. OK....it's far fetched....but nevertheless an enjoyably thriller which is topical on both threads of the story. I enjoyed reading it even more than the others because there wasn't too much about his personal relationship with his young son which I find a bit tedious.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2012
This was the best Spider Shepherd story yet. Earlier stories slightly frustrated me with Spider's conflicting desire to be a good father but satisfy his adrenaline addiction, even if the latter is hidden behind his job to uphold law and order. This time he does absolutely the right thing at the end of the day and even shows us some underlying good in the humanity of honest, old-fashioned criminals. This is just a story after all but I found the moral arguments compelling. Can't wait to start the next one.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Stephen Leather does not write bad novels, just those within the scale of good to very good indeed. This falls to the lower end of that scale but is still a solid thriller.
'Spider' Shepherd is an undercover officer who is inserted into the world of the bad guys, as illustrated in the previous books, all of which are worth picking up. Here Spider is after a bunch of British bank robbers who live in Thailand and commute to the UK for the occasional big bank heist. As Spider gets closer to the gang, there are a group of terrorists also planning something in London, and eventually their paths will cross.....
Although not quite up to previous standards this is not bad. The finish is a little hurried and there are a few moments where you do think "hang on, why didn't he..." but overall not a bad way to while away a few hours.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 November 2012
Enjoying the plot(s), but the lack of clear paragraphs when changing scene is really annoying. There are two different story lines going on at the same time, with totally different characters, and this lack of definition/paragraphs makes it difficult to follow. I had to keep going back a line or two to regain focus. Spoiling a good book. Lazy transcription into an ebook.
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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 15 December 2013
I like to read a book that keeps me involved in the story line and makes me feel like that I am in the action. Stephen Leather books are very compelling and well written as he researches the background to give the story real feeling.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 31 July 2013
I loved this book and all the others in the series and am currently on the last one number 10. I never want them to end and cannot put them down from start to finish. I hope there will be more in this series.
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