Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Review - Hard Landing

Hard Landing – Stephen Leather
For me Stephen Leather is one of them authors that you always see on the shelves, wonder what his books are about but never get round to reading them. The truth is, without the Kindle this probably would have always been the case. You see the Kindle has a knack of tempting you to read books you wouldn’t normally buy. Due to the low price of, “the basement” on a whim I tried the book and discovered I liked Stephen Leather’s style. In a fantastic piece of marketing, I saw the first book in his series was also a very low price and bought that. So was the book any good?
The Blurb (minor spoilers):
Shepherd is used to putting his life on the line as a detective in an elite undercover squad. But when a powerful drugs baron starts to kill off witnesses to his crimes, he faces his most dangerous assignment yet - undercover in a top security prison, where one wrong move will mean certain death.
“Hard Landing” grabbed me from the outset. I didn’t actually read the blurb and although I guessed what was occurring straight away, I thought it was a nice twist and a great way to start a series.
Spider is a great character. In this novel you are frequently trying to figure out what is his true personality and where the role he is forced to play stops. One thing I was sure of though, is that he is an engaging character and one I definitely want to read more of. Think Child’s, “Jack Reacher” crossed with Billingham’s, “DI Thorne” and you get the picture.
I have not read too many stories set in prison. The ones I have read, although they might have been good, had a certain fantastical feel to them. “Hard Landing,” feels like the real deal. Leather portrays the tedium of prison well. If Spider wants to speak to someone, he has to work hard at finding a way out of his cell. If he wants to go to a location, he has to wade through the tedious hours before he can get the chance. Realistic this book maybe, but it never feels boring either.
Instead the book rattles along at a frantic pace. The characters within the prison feel fresh. So often authors fall into the trap of casting stereotypical roles: I.e the psycho everyone is afraid of, the grisly vet near the end of his time or the complete wimp. Stephen Leather avoids this and concentrates on creating good, well rounded characters in Carpenter and Digger. The former behaving suitable diabolically in a bid to buy his way out of trouble by removing all witnesses at his trial.
However, it is Spider’s interaction with the police force and his family that are the best part of the story. Conflicted between his job and his role as a father and husband, I was surprised to find I was quite moved at some of the scenes contained within this book.
The plot also progresses in a logical fashion. The twists when they happen are surprising and keep you on your toes.  Spider always appears calm and in control, so it is nice when the carpet is pulled out from underneath him and he squirms to survive  
The climax of the novel is good even if it does have a bit of a deus ex machina feel to it. I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series and Stephen Leather is now firmly on my reading radar.
 My rating: 8.6