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A little more formulaic than the earlier outings

Being so entranced by Mick Herron’s Slough House series, which I discovered early this year, has had its down-side. Real Tigers, the third of (so far) 4, has been read pretty quickly after reading book 2, which was almost instantaneously dived into after finishing book 1.

Normally, readers will be waiting eagerly for the next to come out, and may well have forgotten an author’s tics or tricks. Not so, this way of reading.

The last time I was feverishly sucked into total immersion by an author, was by Irish writer, Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, a couple of years ago. I read all of French’s long books, – at that time, 5 of them within an intense 6 weeks. And I have to say that French survived this immersion fabulously, as I did not ever feel ‘oh, that routine again’

Where she scores and where Herron just misses, is that French does not stay with the same central cast of characters, who must either develop or recycle themselves into their own predictability. Using the Murder Squad as a pool, or chorus, each of her books features a couple of members of that squad taking a place in the spotlight. She might allow some of the detectives more than one outing, even more than one outing in some kind of central position, but her characters don’t outstay their welcome, and, anyway, are dynamic, shifting, developing.

Whilst Herron, in his wonderfully tense’second team’ espionage books, does keep some kind of unpredictable page turning going, the challenge is, his central players stay the same, and the most archetypal,verge-of-caricature ones, can begin to feel as if they are running through their own grooves, merely driving them a little more predictably. So, in Real Tigers, it is the grossly unregenerate Jackson Lamb – flatulent, autocratic, bullying and disgustingly grubby, who comes off the worst. By book 3, I was well aware that we were heading up to another fart gag, another description of Lamb’s far from fragrant aromatic ambience/ Likewise, sex-obsessed, but permanently sex-denied, geeky Roderick Ho continues to be a butt of some rather similar jokes and put downs.

I suspect I might have enjoyed Real Tigers rather more if I had read it at the time of publication, after waiting eagerly having finished book 2. Dead Lions, at its publication.

Nonetheless, Real Tigers, which has as its central motif the dark doings and power struggles within M15 itself, rather than the dangers posed by external villainry, was a still enjoyable and page turning divertissement, and Herron still gives lots of unpredictable excitement and surprises in the journey. But also, more clichés. There is a prolonged version of a Shoot-Out at the Okay Corral, and I did find it less than credible because I was always aware that I was reading that trope, which went on far too long.

As an aside, I continue to be quite amazed that (as far as I know) Herron has never been sued by the current denizen of the Foreign Office. Set after the 2015 election, but before the referendum, Peter Judd, (PJ) Home Secretary, a devious, bombastic, floppy haired egomaniac with manic ambition, ever prepared to plot and plan and shift with the wind in order to achieve his dream to become PM, is not so much a thinly disguised Boris Johnson, as one completely without disguise!

The most interesting character in this one, and one who has been developing across the books, is Catherine Standish, Jackson Lamb’s PA.

I do recommend this – but also, recommend leaving decent gaps between the books!

Unfortunately though, this book follows reasonably hard on the heels of my last blog review, as though I have read several other titles in the last few weeks, not one of them was any better than ‘okay’ in my estimation, so have been un-reviewed here. The only one which will get blog space is so far in advance of publication that it will do the book no service to be blogged about for a couple of months. So its Herron and Herron!
Real Tigers Amazon UK
Real Tigers Amazon USA