Experiencing rough justice in London?

Title: Rough Justice

Author: Stephen Leather

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

ISBN: 9781444700381

A book review by Sebastian Lim

In his seventh book on the Dan ‘Spider’ Shepherd series, Rough Justice, Stephen Leather has written a realistic and one of the most controversial books of his career.

This is another real scorcher thriller about the police squad.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), have been asked by the Home Secretary to investigate a spate of vigilante crimes which have been happening mainly in and around London.

A number of criminals who have escaped conviction on 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 considered the tough squads that are sent in to break up demonstrations or to support other non-specialist police.

For his new assignment, Spider is asked to become a member of a TSG unit. He is given a legend for the case – an 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 and is given a flat in North London.

Spider joins the squad and after a while, finds a real comradeship develops in working with the guys on a daily basis. So he feels torn between identifying the criminals and supporting his new colleagues.

Soon, a crisis of conscience begins to dawn on Spider, which he must resolve if he is to follow through with his undercover assignment.

To investigate a series of brutal killings and beatings carried out by vigilante cops seems uneasy for him as a former cop himself.

The story has an elaborate, modern, but very believable, multi-layered plot with the main focus being the investigation of the TSG policemen. There are three additional sub-plot lines going on simultaneously.

Firstly, one of Spider’s former SAS commanders wants revenge for the death of his nephew in Northern Ireland and he asks Spider to help him.

Secondly, Spider discovers that his own son, Liam, has an illegal video bluetoothed from a classmate on his mobile that could get him into trouble with the police and this causes Spider a lot of concern.

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.

The story is quite long but the pages keep turning as the actions and events move on at a fast pace.

The main plot, however, will keep the readers glued as Spider copes with his dilemma. Did he succeed in his mission despite his misgivings?

As usual with Leather’s books, this one is so gripping, you will not want to put it down until you have come to the last page.

Leather tackles some of the pressing social issues facing residents in London in particular and the UK in general, especially with many foreigners seeking asylum in the country. And many of them are criminals in their country of origin.

The police are often caught in a dilemma as there are grey areas in the fight against crime.And sometimes, justice gets lost in the process.

An entertaining and easy to read thriller – though some of the scenes are very graphic and can be disturbing to some readers.

Sebastian Lim is an experienced journalist and editor who now runs his own book review blog — coolreadsseb.blogspot.com. The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of The Weekly-Echo.