Slough House – Mick Herron

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A year after a calamitous blunder by the Russian secret service left a British citizen dead from novichok poisoning, Diana Taverner is on the warpath. What seems a gutless response from the government has pushed the Service’s First Desk into mounting her own counter-offensive – but she’s had to make a deal with the devil first. And given that the devil in question is arch-manipulator Peter Judd, she could be about to lose control of everything she’s fought for.

Meanwhile, still reeling from recent losses, the slow horses are worried they’ve been pushed further into the cold. Slough House has been wiped from Service records, and fatal accidents keep happening. No wonder Jackson Lamb’s crew are feeling paranoid. But have they actually been targeted?

With a new populist movement taking a grip on London’s streets, and the old order ensuring that everything’s for sale to the highest bidder, the world’s an uncomfortable place for those deemed surplus to requirements. The wise move would be to find a safe place and wait for the troubles to pass.

But the slow horses aren’t famed for making wise decisions.

Mick Herron is one of those writers who make it look… effortless. He’s just got a way with a turn of phrase, a sentence dropped which is just… perfect.

“This was the spook trade, and when things went awry on Spook Street, they usually went the full Chris Grayling.”

The Slough House books are always a pleasure to read (start with Slow Horses and catch up!), and the series just keeps getting better. The gloriously foul-mouthed, chain-smoking, ever-flatulent, politically incorrect Jackson Lamb (soon to be appearing on our screens played by Gary Oldman) is back, and someone has wiped Slough House off the map and is picking off his Slow Horses.

He’s not happy about it. And you do not cross Jackson Lamb.

Herron has taken the landscape of today – the “you know what” which has left the country with fewer friends, less money and opportunities for populist windbags to opine on everything, the novichok poisonings in Salisbury, the gilets jaunes movement which made its way across the Channel, and layered a cracking spy tale over the top. It’s a tale of revenge for revenge, of the dangers of inviting a wolf to dinner, and just how far the Slow Horses will go for each other.

Whip-smart writing, multi-layered plotting, with some of my favourite characters in fiction, Slough House is just brilliant. Hugely recommended.

(for a more coherent review, check out @bluebookballoon’s thoughts)

Huge thanks to the publisher John Murray for an advance copy of the book.

Author: dave

Book reviewer, occasional writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, spoon carver and stationery geek.

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