Book Review: Slough House – Mick Herron

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

About The Book

‘Kill us? They’ve never needed to kill us,’ said Lamb. ‘I mean, look at us. What would be the point?’

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.

My Review

So here we are, book 7 in the Jackson Lamb/Slough House series of books. Book 6, Joe Country ended somewhat precipitously and I have to admit to worrying about the motley crew of MI5 spies over the past 18 months or so. Upon opening Slough House it seems that my fears were not completely unfounded.

Losing one ex-member of Slough House is an accident but when a second is murdered it appears that somebody has it in for Jackson Lamb’s band of exiled spies. They also seem to have all been removed from the database and Diana Taverner – First Desk at MI5 – may or may not have a hand in it. Throw in some tussling between the UK and Russia over novichok poisonings in our fair land and a retaliation which seems to have waved a red rag at a bull and well, things are not rosy in spy-land.

Bubbling away in the background are political manoeuvres by Peter Judd, a power hungry Etonian Machiavelli with a penchant for using complicated and old fashioned words to sound intelligent (familiar?) and his new ally Damien Cantor a media genius who owns his own TV Channel, Channel Go. The dance between Peter and Diana is a joy to read with skilled word play and one-upmanship between two people who both want to come out on top. Peter is using Channel Go to push his own agenda and, due to a rare misstep by Diana, he has her well and truly under his thumb, leading her to confide in her old adversary Jackson Lamb.

Lamb is his usual grotesque, flatulent, sharp-witted and deceptively agile man with a sharp tongue and quick mind. Protective over his group of spies (just don’t tell them that) when he discovers they are being followed and are potentially in danger he sets wheels in motion and lays traps. Always one step ahead with an eye on a knife hurtling towards his back he is not to be underestimated.

This book feels very current, from the references to Brexit, Russian spies, and the rise of the right to the harnessing of TV and social media for political gains. The members of Slough House are merely the pawns in the larger game being played with River, the fabulous Roddy, Shirley, Louisa, Catherine and newest member Lec working against Regent’s Park, the home of MI5.

Of course, the star of the show is the writing. Nobody writes like Mick Herron. This is a tense and taut spy thriller but is also political satire with its tongue firmly in cheek. Writing a book which deals with Russian spies, novichok poisoning, right wing uprisings, illicit gains, grief and death and keeping moments of humour is a difficult balancing act, but as ever, Mick Herron deftly handles it. I found myself laughing out loud one moment whilst being pole-axed the next on more than occasion with one event in particular taking my breath away. It is another winner for me.

Where You Can Buy It

My thanks to John Murray Press for providing me with a copy of the book via Netgalley.

Slough House by Mick Herron is out today in both hardcover and ebook.

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