Leather, Stephen - 'Rough Justice'
Earlier this year when I reviewed the author's previous thriller, NIGHTFALL, in which he introduced his new hero "Jack Nightingale", I assumed that he was going to replace Leather's other hero figure, Dan (Spider) Shepherd who had featured in six previous books, but how wrong I was. Now in his 22nd book, ROUGH JUSTICE, which is again about Spider, Leather has written one of the strongest and most outstanding books of his career to date. Another real scorcher, in fact. So it looks like Leather is giving himself the task of writing two series books a year. I wonder whether he can keep up such a pace and do promotional book tours as well?!
The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), have been asked by the Home Secretary to investigate a spate of vigilante crimes which have been occurring mainly in and around London. A number of criminals that have escaped conviction for legal technicalities are suspected of being given rough justice by a team of elite police officers who belong to a Territorial Support Group (TSG) - these are the police units that are sent in, usually in blue vans, to break up demonstrations or to support other non specialist police.
Spider, is asked for his next assignment to become a member of a TSG unit and to this end he is given a false identity as a policeman transferred from a different constabulary to Paddington, West London. He is equipped with a complete kit of warrant card, bank account and ancillary ID in his new name of "Terry Halligan" (very weird - but I promise you no payment changed hands!) and is given a flat in North London. He joins the squad and finds a real comradeship develops in working with them on a day to day basis. He feels very torn between identifying the criminals and supporting his new colleagues. A real crisis of conscience in fact, which must be resolved if he is to follow this through.
The story has an elaborate, modern, but very believable, multi-layered plot with the main strand being the investigation of the TSG policemen. There are three additional sub-plot lines occurring. Firstly, one of Spider's former SAS commanders wants revenge for the death of his son in Northern Ireland and he asks Spider to help him. Secondly, Spider discovers that his own son, Liam, has an illegal video on his mobile that could get him into trouble with the police and this causes Spider a lot of worry. The third plot line covers a colleague of Spider's in SOCA, who has to infiltrate a right wing extremist organisation, which has some crossover to the TSG story.
All in all this is quite a long book but the pages just flew by. The main plot had echoes of the Death Wish films with the late Charles Bronson. As usual with Leather's books, I read this book in about two days, it was so gripping I just could not put it down and I believe I'll probably include it in my five best reads of 2010. A very entertaining, easy read - though some of the scenes in it are very graphic - and I look forward to reading his future books in both series.
Terry Halligan, England