False Friends by Stephen Leather

I’ve been meaning to do more book reviews for the site. The only thing is lately I’ve not done much reading. Having just read the new Stephen Leather thriller False Friends it becomes an appropriate choice.

I first discovered Leather’s books back in 1993 when i read the paperback of The Chinaman. I enjoyed it enough that I read must of his output through the 1990s. Since then I have only dipped into his books occasionally.

His new book features his recurring character of Dan Shepherd, who is a former SAS soldier, former cop, former undercover SOCA agent and now is working for MI5. The series features Shepherd going up against organised crime and terrorists.

False Friends begins with a recreation of the US special forces mission to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistani. Shepherd is along for the ride, which does seem a bit unlikely to me. He’s there as an observer because two young British men supplied the information about bin Laden’s location, which I though was an interesting rewriting of history.

Back in London Shepherd is keeping an eye on the two men, who were being groomed for a terrorist operation but reported to to the authorities. They are waiting to heard the details of the terrorist plot, at which point it can be halted.

Meanwhile Shepherd is called onto another operation where he has to pose as an arms dealer. A pair of men with right-wing connections are looking for a large number of AK-47 style weapons.

I did think that this other job would link up with the terrorist plot but I was wrong. Frustratingly we never discover what the men wanted the weapons for.

Eventually the terrorist plot starts to unfold and Shepherd has to try and stop it in time. Leather is good at the Spooks-style action with people back at MI5 headquarters watching surveillance footage as agents are deployed in the field.

Leather writes simply and effectively. If there is a sliding scale going from the nuanced and stylish writing of Gerald Seymour to the ‘Hard Man’ SAS novels, as I call them, then Leather is somewhere in the middle.

False Friends is entertaining enough but i did feel that everything gets resolved a little too conveniently. I think I would suggest new readers should start with an earlier book in the series. Otherwise it’s not a bad way to pass the time.