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Book Review: Short Range - Stephen Leather

Short Range by Stephen Leather.
I haven't read a novel in quite a while so I was looking forward to Stephen Leather's Short Range, which is his sixteenth Spider Shepherd thriller.

The book was given to me as a gift, and I can't say I was familiar with Stephen or this book series. Essentially it's my first introduction to the character of British MI5 Agent, Dan 'Spider' Shepherd.

Fortunately I do like a good thriller novel, and Stephen includes enough information about his lead character, as the story unfolds, that I didn't feel like I was missing any crucial information from past adventures.

The basic premise of Short Range is undercover agent Dan Shepherd is assigned to an operation to take down a terrorist group. His assignment crosses paths with another operation using a child informant to help them take down a drug dealer. Meanwhile Dan's personal life is about to be shaken up in a way he never sees coming.

As far as police thrillers go this one hits the ground running, quickly getting into the action of a surveillance operation going unexpectedly wrong. It did the trick in drawing me into Dan's world.

Stephen's writing style is easy to follow as I went deeper into, what starts out as a fairly straight forward case, with enough investigation to keep me interested in following the trail.

I did roll my eyes a little at learning the lead character has a photographic memory. Obviously this would be very advantageous for an investigator in any field, but in terms of the story, perfect memory recall is an easy shortcut for the author to lean on. Fortunately it didn't feel over used here.

About halfway through the book events in Dan's personal life literally derail everything up to that point. The story becomes focussed on what starts out as a subplot but then becomes almost the entire narrative for the second and some of the third acts.

This isn't a bad thing by any means as the book becomes a real page turner when this secondary plotline kicks in. However I did feel the ending suffered as a result with the main operation winding up rather abruptly.

That aside, Short Range was an enjoyable read that kept me engaged all the way to the end. Dan Shepherd is a likeable enough lead character. I didn't really get enough of any of the supporting characters to make them stand out, though Dan's boss, Director Giles Pritchard, almost upstages him in the second act.

I'd certainly be interested to read earlier books in the Spider Shepherd series and, based on the events of this book, the next in the series could have some interesting repercussions.

Short Range by Stephen Leather is available from Amazon.



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