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Book Review: False Friends by Stephen Leather

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False Friends by Stephen Leather is a fictional book in the Dan Shepherd series. This is the ninth book in the series, but can be read as a standalone book.

Two English citizens of Pakistani descent, Malik and Chaudhry, are bothered with the terrorism activities done in the name of their religion. Dreaming of careers in medicine and hospitality they help MI5 with information which leads to the assassination of Bin-laden.

Al-Qaeda realize that there is a traitor in their mist, and, while trying to plan a massive terror plot in the UK, the organization involves the informants. Shepherd is the handler of Malik and Chaundhry, he must help them keep their cool until the plot is foiled.

False Friends was my first Dan Shepherd book, and it was a pleasant surprise. Even though I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, it did not interfere with this story.

The author, through his characters, really doesn’t like the US, especially its politics and actions as a country. Those parts are not comfortable to read, but as a follower of current events I am well aware how the US is viewed in many parts of the world, so it was no surprise to see this in print (again). The author also gives voice to several moderate Muslims, many which exist, to counter the extreme Muslim voices we hear on a regular base.

The story moves along at a decent pace; the plot line is engaging; and the characters are well drawn. I’m sure Shepherd’s character has evolved over the series, but I did not feel that I missed out on anything. The characters of the Pakistani informers are especially well thought out.  Both are from good families and faithful to their Muslim beliefs, but cannot justify the acts committed in their names.

One of the strengths of this book, I found, is that the characters felt real. The way they talked and acted seemed natural to their fictional identities, Leather goes into details about undercover assignments, not the daily drudge, but the psychological damage done to a person and his/hers families when living a lie day after day.

There has been a bit of controversy in the bookish world with this book. It seems that Mr. Leather set up false accounts on bookish websites to give himself good reviews and create a buzz. I can assure you that this review is not one of them. False Friends is not a bad book by any means, there are other ways to create buzz (blog tours, etc.) which are both affordable and create legitimate buzz around a book from trustworthy sources. This is a decent book which can stand alone on its own merits, there was no need to go to such lengths.

  • 512 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340925000

Buy this book in paper or electronic (Kindle) format.

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