It’s been quite a while since I started an established series. Mick Herron’s “Slough House” spy novels now total 8 full length titles and four novellas, the latest, a Christmas themed short story “Standing By The Wall” was published this month. With each full- length publication Herron’s reputation seems to grow and he is a regular on end of year best books lists.
Spy novels are not a genre I read often, a couple of Graham Greene’s in my teenage years, no John Le Carre’s. I loved Helen Dunmore’s “Exposure” (2016) which dabbled with that world. I always enjoyed BBC TV’s “Spooks” and this is what Herron’s series is often compared to.
Slough House is the nondescript looking workplace for the “Slow Horses”, ex MI5 staff who have somehow been found lacking and redeployed to less urgent duties. Central to the novel is 29 year old River Cartwright who makes a serious mistake in a tube station bomb situation. Head of this group of misfits is the unappealing Jackson Lamb who runs down his team to anyone who will listen but whose actions suggest he might think otherwise.
We are introduced to the rest of the Slough House team and instantly the reader can tell there’s a lot of mileage in this series. I was also surprised by the depth of this novel. The characters, their motives, the language they use is so well-rounded and feels authentic but you cannot rush through this book. It’s a slow, steady read which may frustrate those crime fans who want to get through their books quickly.
Plot-wise, a seemingly random youth is kidnapped and is being held hostage with an online video stream proclaiming he will have his head chopped off. The Slough House team’s role is to remain in the background but circumstances change this dynamic. I did enjoy this and recognise it as a strong start to a series which I will hopefully be reading more of soon.
Slow Horses was originally published by Constable in 2010. I read a 2017 paperback edition published by John Murray.