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Friday, October 24, 2014


4 stars out of 5

I've never been a fan of books about war (or movies, for that matter). But I do love a good action/adventure book, and with all the turmoil that's happening around the world these days, I'm not surprised that settings often are in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. I'm not thrilled about that, but when a book keeps me engaged throughout - as this one does - I'm willing to deal with it.

This is the 11th in the series featuring British MI5 agent Dan "Spider" Shepherd, and I've read and enjoyed quite a few of the others. Here, he's just come off a botched undercover assignment, only to learn that a young man he once mentored has been kidnapped in a remote part of Pakistan by al-Qaeda terrorists. Shepherd's controller, Charlotte Button, desperately wants to rescue him, but attempting that through the usual (and legal) channels isn't an option. So, she calls in a few chips - and then calls Shepherd and some of the Navy SEALS who were responsible for killing Osama bin Laden - to tackle the job. 

Needless to say, there's plenty of action, which is more than a little bit heavy on torture (one of the reasons I don't like war stories). As usual, the chapters jump back and forth among the various players - those doing the planning and those on the front lines of the action. In between, there's a ton of information on guns and surveillance equipment, the layout of a country most of us know little about and details of the thinking that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that the covert operation is a success. 

In the beginning, Shepherd - fast approaching his 40th birthday - remains confident of his ability, but his MI5 psychologist suspects he may be losing his edge and more suited to a desk job. In the end, there's no resolution of that issue - but it did seem to me that Shepherd himself was less a focal person in this book than in those I've read previously. Perhaps that signals a change in his future similar to John Sandford's Lucas Davenport's "graduating" from street work to a less dangerous, but still important, supervisory role. 

Oh well - guess I'll just have to wait for the next one to find out.

White Lies by Stephen Leather (Hodder & Stoughton, August 2014); 384 pp.

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