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Soft Target: A Thriller (Ray Cruz) Hardcover – December 6, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


One of the Best Books of 2012 (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

“Stephen Hunter spent years reviewing movies for The Washington Post. That work gave him a keen sense of pacing and timing. The evidence shows up in Soft Target, which unrolls a complicated and grabby plot in just 256 tense pages. And Hunter packs in a surprise with the identity and motive of the individual behind the terrorist attack.”St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Hunter’s writing is sharp, detailed and laced with enough offhand wit to keep readers from sinking into the general gore and Islam-bashing. . . . Hunter has produced a fast, gratifying read.”The Houston Chronicle

“A solid addition to Stephen Hunter’s sniper series, made more engaging by its invocation of current events and political posturing. I join his other fans in hoping he has another one already in the works.”The Washington Times

“Stephen Hunter didn’t invent the high-action thriller. But, as he once again demonstrates in the lightning-paced Soft Target, he might as well have. . . . Soft Target is Die Hard with a brain and a plan. A lean, action-packed tale that begs to be read in a single sitting.”The Providence Journal

“Fast-paced…fearsome.”Publishers Weekly

“Combining elements of the locked-room mystery, the disaster novel, and the lock-and-load thriller, Hunter produces a remarkably gripping tale, building character (the captives, the bureaucrats, and the “terrorists” all get compelling backstories) every bit as convincingly as he drives the narrative to its High Noon–style finale.”Booklist (starred review)

“Any thriller in which Middle Eastern terrorists whack Santa on the first page is bound to be exciting. As always, Hunter has crafted a fast-paced and all-too-plausible telling of our worst nightmares coming true. Ray Cruz is a worthy successor to Swagger. Hunter’s fans, along with new readers, will enjoy the violent battle between Cruz and the bad guys.”Library Journal

“Black Friday [is] on the cusp of becoming blood-soaked Friday. . . . Among the shoppers, albeit reluctantly, is Ray Cruz, a retired marine sniper, son of the iconic marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger, whose valorous exploits Hunter has richly detailed (Dead Zero, 2010, etc.). . . . Snipers and SWAT teams gather, but only one man is in an advantageous tactical position, behind enemy lines, as it were. Only one man, but he’s Bob Lee Swagger’s son, and what a good thing it is that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.”Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Stephen Hunter has written eighteen novels. The retired chief film critic for The Washington Post, where he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism, he has also published two collections of film criticism and a nonfiction work, American Gunfight. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.


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Product Details

  • Series: Ray Cruz
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (December 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439138702
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439138700
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (320 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #810,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Hunter won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism as well as the 1998 American Society of Newspaper Editors Award for Distinguished Writing in Criticism for his work as film critic at The Washington Post. He is the author of several bestselling novels, including Time to Hunt, Black Light, Point of Impact, and the New York Times bestsellers Havana, Pale Horse Coming, and Hot Springs. He lives in Baltimore.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Brian Baker VINE VOICE on December 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Hunter now brings his series into the third generation of Swagger men in his new offering "Soft Target".

Bob "The Nailer" Swagger, knight in rusting armor, has been aging gracefully, but it's been getting clearer in the last couple of books that he's getting a bit long in the tooth to continue with the kinds of activities Hunter's stories require. It really becomes an issue of believability, as I've pointed out in my reviews of other books in series that feature Vietnam vets as the central characters: we Viet vets are becoming... old. (Maaaaan... that hurts to write!). To see Dave Robicheaux or Elvis Cole or Harry Bosch or Bob The Nailer doing all these super-athletic things they seem to do... well, it really starts to strain the old credibility.

Hunter's been smart enough to address this by introducing Bob Lee's illegitimate son, Ray Cruz, as his heir-apparent, and this novel clearly illustrates why: there's just no way that Bob Lee could have done what Cruz does in this book and have it be believable at all.

The story: jihadi terrorists have raided the thinly-disguised Mall of America on Black Friday, the busy post-Thanksgiving shopping day, killing many shoppers and taking about 1,000 of them hostage. Cruz is the only "shooter" in the place, and he (and a few other people) has managed to evade capture.

The authorities responding to the scene are commanded by a thinly-disguised Obama-style statie colonel - cleverly named Obobo - in love with his own voice and convinced of his own infallibility and ability to deal with the terrs through non-violent persuasion, setting up a clash of strategies and wills between himself and the SWAT-types who want to go in shooting.

How all this works out is the main thrust of the story.
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154 of 184 people found the following review helpful By PAUL A HOLMES on December 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Wow. Just... wow.

Let me provide some context for this review. I LOVE Stephen Hunter. I have read everything he has published, including his film criticism. The whole Swagger family saga, starting with Dirty White Boys, which set the background, and continuing through the historical novels and the more modern stuff, are maybe my favorite series of recent times. (Lee Child's Reacher novels are the only other books that come close, for me.) I pre-ordered this for Kindle six months ago and I had been waiting eagerly for it. I deliberately didn't start the new Harry Bosch because I knew this was coming online a day or two later. So, in case I didn't make it clear, I LOVE Stephen Hunter.

I found "Soft Target" borderline unreadable.

The plot was derivative (unless you're the only American thriller fan who never saw "Die Hard") and predictable pretty much from the first page to the last. The characters would have had to be fleshed out considerably to be called one-dimensional. The villains, both the perpatrators of the central crime and the bureaucrats who create additional hurdles for our hero to overcome (see "Die Hard," above) are particularly cartoonish. The politics are crude and unsubtle and grow tiresome after about 30 pages.

I kept reading only because (a) I like to finish what I start; (b) I was on a seven hour flight; and (c) I kept hoping against hope that there would be some sort of last-chapter twist that would redeem what had come before. There wasn't.

I can only say that I now regret every second I invested in this book. My time would have been better spent watching the last chapter of the Harry Potter series on the inflight entertainment system over and over until the landing lights went on.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Ivy on December 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
SOFT TARGET brings back Ray Cruz, ex-Marine wonder kid. He's shopping at the most mega-mall of all in the USA...complete with indoor amusement park...when an apparent terrorist attack traps thousands inside. The best thing about the book it is how swiftly it moves. No American writer has mastered the art of the supersonic plot better than Hunter and once you pick it up, the known world dissolves and you are there, with Ray, on the inside of this situation and deciding how best to help and then, with some luck and a lot of skill, exercising the impromptu plan. At the same time, Hunter brings political reality to the front with conflict between the "suits" and the operatives. All in all...a great read to get your mind out of the clouds and into reality of what, unfortunately, could happen with very sophisticated attackers. Hunter obviously researched the book's components and used his knowledge of weaponry and ballistics to add his "signature" style to the book.
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53 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Maddiecat on December 7, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having read all of Hunter's Earl and Bob Lee Swagger novels, I must admit I had a certain trepidation about this one, which I assumed would be all Ray Cruz. I read the entire novel last night in one sitting, and I must say that the torch has been passed with nary a hitch. Unlike most of the prior Swagger novels, this one transpires over a relatively short time frame of several hours of nonstop tension and/or action. A myriad of characters of varying significance are introduced, and each is well developed to a degree appropriate to their significance in the story. Once again, Hunter displays his impressive knowledge of technical detail as relates to firearms, tactics, etc., providing the realism one expects from his novels. This book provides a surprising amount of humorous tongue-in-cheek satire, and I suspect that many of the detractors of this novel are motivated more by their own political and/or racial prejudices than genuine concern over flawed storytelling. Perhaps the idea of a mixed race progeny of Bob Lee Swagger is simply too much for their intolerant little minds to accept, but in this writer's humble opinion, Ray Cruz is a worthy successor to a legendary character.
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