Having read all of Stephen Leather's thrillers and particularly enjoyed the "Spider Shepherd" tales, I am an established fan but I can honestly say that Rough Justice is as good as anything the author has written. Rough Justice works on a number of levels, it is a thriller that deals with the very grey areas between justice and revenge and also asks some uncomfortable questions.
Here we have Spider going undercover to expose some rogue Police officers who are taking justice into their own hands set within an environment that is perhaps overly politically correct and overly protective of the bad guys rather then the victims. Spider gets his own exposure to this in a scenario that is scarily (and sadly) true. In balance to this we also have Spider considering taking things into his own hands as a result of a terrorist attack....
This moves at pace but the author does a great job of giving all the characters real personalities amid excellent research. The banter and process of the Police team that Spider works with felt spot on, as did their varying attitudes and frustrations. I sense that Stephen Leather is no fan of the "Nanny State" (a theme repeated in his other recent book, Nightfall), and it would be hard to argue with him based on the themes in this book. But this is a thriller and it works very well at that level, you get a sense of the tension and the pressures of working undercover and the difficulty of maintaining two identities. As a reader you are likely to change your mind about what is acceptable and what is not, or at the very least you will pause to think about your views of right and wrong.
There are some significant changes in this novel as well, and a possible change of direction for Spider, it's an interesting one although it may well take future books into a direction already quite well populated and away from the unique(ish) undercover scenario we have become used to. And there are still some things to be resolved........
A great thriller from an author at the top of his game. Recommended.
on 5 July 2010
I am a big Stephen Leather fan and have followed Dan "Spider" Shephard from his first appearence in Hard Landing. My favourite book in this series so far has been Soft Target, which was my first ever book by this author and it had me gripped from the start.
I was worried that this book was covering very similar ground and was just a re-jig of a story already done... However I was pleased to see I was wrong and it was a different path to that book. I wont go over the plot in too much detail as I don't want to give any spoilers but suffice to say it takes some interesting twists and continues the prose very nicely.
I was really dis-appointed when Mike "Joker" Cramer was killed off in a previous series of books and I hope Mr Leather doesn't make the same mistake again..!? The ending of this leads nicely into a different path for the characters and could really refresh the series.
My only gripe is having a chapter of Nightfall at the back of the book... Why!? I have that book and really enjoyed it but don't see the point of this other than a marketing ploy?
But apart from that another top read 5 stars - keep them coming!!
Mr Leather I know you read these reviews, I know the Shephard series is popular but I also loved one offs like the tunnel rats and birthday girl, are there any "ones offs" due out and also when is the next Nightingale book due out??
on 17 October 2013
I just finished reading Rough Justice and can honestly say, this book is so up to date with what is going on in this country and abroad.
We start off with Button (Spider's Boss) sending him undercover into the Met. to help uncover a batch of Dirty Police Officers who are either killing or seriously assaulting people who have served their time, got away with there offending, or currently offending and just haven't yet been caught, this book deals with the blowing of kneecaps off, hanging people and assaulting people so badly they go back to their native countries they are so scared of remaining in this one. Spider isn't very happy to be given this job, as he does feel some empathy towards the police, and feels that the law does not deal sufficiently with these types of criminals. We also find his colleague goes undercover into the world of Racist and membership of banned organisations for Police Officers, Civil Servants etc., and is asked to befriend one Sergeant who is such a member.
The book goes deeply into the friendships that Spider makes with his new colleagues, and how difficult it is to find out if any of them take the law into their own hands. Meanwhile, back at home Spider's son and au-pair continue life without Spider. Spider buys his son a Beagle name Lady, and whilst watching a video on his son's phone, he finds a nasty racist video on there, of a schoolboy, being bullied and assaulted, there are also racist words and encouragement of violence towards the black school boy. After questioning his son, Spider gives a copy of the video to Liam's school teacher. The police contact Liam, and they take him in for questioning, Spider gets angry as he feels, his son is being blamed for this video. After telling the police which schoolboy sent him a copy of the video, Spider and his family are targeted by the boys father, tyres slashed, brick through the window. and then Lady is poisoned, Meanwhile, Spider is harassed by the father who threatens to murder, himself, Liam and the au-pair. Eventually, after finding out that the boys father is not whom he portrays himself to be, but rather a foreign child molester, and wanted in Albania for various offences, Spider tries to tell the police this information, but the Lead Police Officer is not interested in the information, but prefers to concentrate on his own rise in the force.
Spider, seeks the help of friends to sort out the problem.
Spider feels depressed over Button's transfer to MI5 and the fact that she is leaving SOCA, and he tends to become a little angry with her, its a lovely end to the book, when she points out to him, that she is aware of his involvement of the Fox Brothers Murders, and the disappearance of the boys father, and impresses on Spider, that she is indeed a very wise woman.
on 28 January 2014
Rough Justice is a brilliant read. It offers the entertainment and distraction that I like to find in a thriller, but it also had me thinking about a number of issues and really stretched my opinions until they were out of shape.
The subject under investigation is justice itself and the book demonstrates just how complex and thorny a topic it is. Mr Leather pushes the boundaries with the clever juxtaposition of the various strands of the plot. In each of these elements there is a need for justice and in none of them is the outcome either straightforward or the same.
Shepherd is working undercover as a member of an elite police unit. He’s mixing with hard people who have strong beliefs. The investigation is aimed at uncovering a gang of law-enforcers who have decided to take the law into their own hands. We get to follow the gang as they mop up the streets and take serious villains from the streets. Their methods are unorthodox these days, but could be viewed as ‘an-eye-for-an-eye’. Rather importantly, they seem to be succeeding where the law appears to fail time and time again. They’re brutal, efficient and it’s difficult not to feel sympathy with what they’re aiming to achieve – difficult for Shepherd and difficult for me as a reader. To add to the elements here, the issues of racism are raised at a number of levels and examined in ways that aren’t easily or frequently aired.
Added to this, Shepherd finds himself in a position of assisting the Major as he seeks closure for himself and his brother after a number of off-duty soldiers are gunned down by Irish terrorists.
Further fuel is thrown onto the fire when Shepherd’s son is found with a clip of a beating on his phone; because Shepherd reports this to the school, a chain of events is set into motion that leave his home and family at risk. It needs to be dealt with, but the police seem powerless to take it on. Worse still, it’s not long before Shepherd is made to feel like he’s the villain of the piece by one particularly PC PC. Said PC talks sense and brings a liberal mind to the tale, but somehow manages to come out rather badly in doing so.
The development of each aspect is taken at the perfect pace. They link together and bounce off each other perfectly to make the whole even greater than the sum of its parts.
I particularly enjoyed the characters. They come across as very real people in very difficult situations and are presented in ways that blur black and white throughout. Stephen Leather does a fantastic job of zooming in and out in order to build a level of sympathy with the majority of the people who inhabit the book and manages to do this without ever giving the sense that he’s out there pulling the strings and manipulating events, something that I found rather impressive.
At the time of reading, the verdict on the Mark Duggan police shooting came through. The conclusion of the courts clearly doesn’t satisfy everyone, nor could it possibly. What the coverage of the story has shown is how powerful the police are and what amazingly difficult situations they have to cope with. Having grown up with some of the old-fashioned policing that is oft referred to in crime novels of late, I’ve rarely been a police sympathiser, but I think this book came close to helping me understand something of the impact the power of being a police officer must have and it was interesting to take a look at the world from such a different point of view.
I also read this immediately after Ian Rankin’s ‘Saints Of The Shadow Bible’, a novel which also deals with issues of justice and police stretching it to try and make it work. The books are both great, very different and complement each other really well.
For Rough Justice, the 5 stars were never in doubt. Any fewer and it would have been a crime.
on 15 June 2013
I am very selective in my reading and once I've found a winner I tend to stick with it. Stephen Leather fits this criteria and with the Spider Shepard novels I am well and truly hooked. Well written, fast, plausible action and as always you find yourself once started, unable to put it down. If you've not read it give it a go.....you won't be disappointed.
on 2 April 2011
You'd think that a seventh book with the same character would get boring. Stephen Leather is too good a writer to let that happen.
Spider has to investigate a group of vigilante cops, calling into question his morals and his career. Leather raises some fascinating issues. Should it be an eye for an eye, and should the police have greater powers, to name just two. Leather presents both sides of the argument expertly and combines these issues with the usual action and humour found in his previous books.
The ending is a belter. Stephen, how could you?! Will we see the Spider unleash hell in book eight? I hope so......