Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Brianna's summary of the Dan Shepherd series by Stephen Leather

WARNING: As a summary of 2-12 this WILL I repeat WILL contain spoilers (I will try to keep them minimal but you have been warned).

Okay so I thought I would talk about this series as a whole not because I don’t remember the individual story lines, because for the most part I have more to say when talking about the series as a whole than I have to say about the individual books. The individual books are:

#2 Soft Target
#3 Cold Kill
#4 Hot Blood
#5 Dead Men
#6 Live Fire
#7 Rough Justice
#8 Fair Game
#9 False Friends
#10 True Colours
#11 White Lies
#12 Black Ops
And #13 Dark Forces is lucky enough to get its own review here.

(I have also read the short stories and although I’m not including them in this review/summary they may get referenced)

Firstly I’d like to say how much really like this series and I have to admit that I have read all except Dark Forces twice as I re-read the series. Since finishing the 1st one Hard Landing I was literally buying the next in the series as soon as I had turned the last page of the book (which makes me equally love and hate amazon) which the exception of Black Ops and Dark Forces since they weren’t avalible.
While I’ve mentioned the last page, not really to do with the series but, the later books have a quote at the end which I really like:
“In the best books, the ending often comes as a shock. Not just because of that one last twist in the tale but because you have been so absorbed in their world, that coming back to the harsh light of reality is a jolt.”

One of my favourite things about the series is that apart from False Friends, Black Ops and Dark Forces the books start with Spider already working a case which is about to end, and just like in Hard Landing we are not told which one is Spider, although Stephen Leather gives hints which help to work out who Spider is, in cold kill one of the sailors is drinking Jamesons which we all know is Spider’s drink. I have to admit there was one or two where I wasn’t entirely sure until it was revealed.

Dan ‘Spider’ Shepherd – Spider is quite contradictory, he often appears to not particularly like his job a lot of the time, either because of it keeping him away from Liam, waiting around or quite simply because he doesn’t like lying to people with the sole purpose of betraying them, there are a few time while reading the series that I have wondered why he still does it – the answer to that I think leads to contradiction No.2.
Spider has a fairly strong moral code (supposedly) and he likes fairness which I guess is partly why he doesn’t like lying to targets. Spider is happy to do most things including killing people if he feels the law is on his side or if the situation is kill or be killed, but as the series goes on and he progresses through his career he becomes darker and his moral code becomes a little fuzzy and in my opinion he crosses his own line. He is involved in abduction a man and threatening information out of him, holding an innocent family hostage, planning a murder (which only really went as far as abduction), helping to plan and cover up a double murder and finally killing someone – all outside of his job.  In fairness he was uncomfortable doing the first two in that list, but he didn’t think twice about the rest.

The other characters in the series are a lot more consistent although most of them except Razor aren’t pretending to be other people and they don’t seem to change much over the course of the series.
I have a bit of a soft spot for Razor even though he’s grumpy and borderline racist (although like Spider I don’t think he truly is… for the most part…) and I like the fact that even when he and Spider don’t work together he still makes an appearance, I think he is probably the closest thing to a friend that Spider has, even though I agree with Razor, and I don’t think Razor has ever actually met Dan Shepherd I don’t think anyone other than, the SAS boys have, I think Button was close but not close enough.
On the other side, I hate Jeremy Willoughby-Brown from almost the moment we met him – I don’t think he has a single redeeming quality.

Now despite my love of this series I have a few issues…  

Snipers anyone? – Spider has an eidetic memory, it’s hard to forget as we are reminded of this a little too often for my liking, and by the looks of it both me and Spider have better memories than Stephen Leather. Shepherd mentions I think in the first book that he has never killed anyone outside of a ‘kill or be killed’ situation, which is fair enough at this point it makes sense, he also mentions in Live Fire that he has no respect for snipers and that they don’t fight like real men at this point it is just Spider’s internal monologue and then in Fair Game while talking to Caroline Stockmann he tells her that he could never be a sniper and in the same book he tell Major Gannon that he hates snipers… His views seem pretty clear don’t they?
Then along comes True Colours and we find out that Spider was a sniper (and in the short stories you get to see him being a sniper) the minute I read this my brain popped up going ‘hang on… he hates snipers’ in the course of reading the series the first time around I came up with an alternative solution to this just being a mistake on Stephen Leathers behalf; Maybe Spider is lying to himself, maybe being shot by a sniper changed his mind because surely Stephen Leather couldn’t forget how little Spider thinks of snipers. However when I re-read them it firstly just made me really angry I hate it when authors forget stuff (which is ironic because I have a terrible memory) but the other thing that became apparent to me was that my theory on him lying to himself just wasn’t adding up, it wasn’t just the sniper comments it was the other comments about people and situations in which he’d killed. However thankfully for my sanity this problem has since been resolved in Dark Forces, you can see what I think of the resolution in my review for it.

Who? – My second issue is Stephen Leathers name switching – I can’t keep up with who is who… if at all possible can we stick to one name per character? He refers to all characters by their surname (except Liam and Katra) which is fine for Spider, Razor, Button etc. we know them I can keep up, but when everyone else referred to by their surname in description yet in the same scene everyone is referring to them by first name or even a nickname it’s sometimes hard to keep up. It might just be me but once I know someone by one name it’s hard to start calling them something else.

Catchphrase – This one might just be me… but I have noticed that throughout the whole series the same expressions and phrases will be used by multiple character, and I know that that can happen, it’s just with there being so many phrases that mean the same thing I find it hard to believe that everyone would use the exact same phrase, and even going so far as multiple character usung exactly the same word to describe Charlotte Button, that doesn't just happen. I might just be nit picking but I noticed it straight away and it bugged me.

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