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Tuesday, December 13, 2016


5 stars out of 5

It's been a while since I've read one of the author's terrific books featuring British M15 agent Dan "Spider" Shepherd - too long, I said to myself as I polished off this one (the 13th). Despite not being a fan of settings in countries where Americans are less than welcome, this series is so well written (and the main character so intriguing) that once I get off and running, the books are hard to put down.

As this one begins, Shepherd has been with M15 for five years, much of the time doing heavy-duty undercover work. Early on, he watches as an extremely on-target sniper escapes from a missile strike in Syria while his two companions - spotters - are blown to smithereens. Of course, Shepherd wants the one who got away, but there are no clues as to his identity or to what location he disappeared.

Back in London, he's gone undercover to infiltrate a gang that's involved with money laundering and murder; the plan is to get sufficiently entrenched in their good graces that they show him the guts of the money-laundering operation - thus allowing charges to be made that will stick and land them in prison for years to come.

But meanwhile, chapters shift to the perspective of Mohammed al-Hussain, a jihadist who's on a suicide mission. It's possible he and other IS cohorts are planning to come to London under the cover of the many refugees who are crossing borders to escape the strife in their countries. To that end, Shepherd gets help from an informant and puts his eidetic memory to good use once again.

As the end nears, it becomes clear that the terrorists have targeted somewhere in London as the site of a major strike that could kill hundreds. But where and when? And with what weapons? The answers to those questions keep the action moving along (interspersed with more than a little spewing of blood and guts) to the last few pages. 

I should add that this one struck me as a little bit different in that readers see a "softer" side of Shepherd as he ruminates on killing for killing's sake (or, put another way, whether or not the end justifies the means) and ramifications of his 18-year-old son Liam's decision to pass on going to university and instead join the army. 

Lots of meat and potatoes in this one - one of the best, IMHO!

Dark Forces by Stephen Leather (Hodder & Stoughton, July 2016); 433 pp.

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