Official (Mick Herron Avoider of Spoilers) Secrets Act Signed!
Mick Herron’s marvellously funny, horribly plausible, politically too close for comfort, twisty, turny sequence of spooks-on-the-prowl novels continues, all guns effortlessly blazing for another 5 star review with this one.
For those new to Herron’s ‘Slough House, Jackson Lamb’ series, good though Book 5 (this one) is, and despite the fact that yes, each book can be read as a stand-alone, I would strongly, strongly suggest you race away and get the first book in the series, Slow Horses, and then, with increasing immersion and enjoyment, book on book, work your way through Dead Lions, Real Tigers and Spook Street, in order. This one will still be waiting for you, and you will enjoy it even more as you will be meeting old friends and foes, and come to this one with even more pleasure than would have been the case if you began in the middle.
Herron with each book is rather taking on the changing political events that have happened since he wrote the previous book.
His books follow MI5 (his version of it) here cited as ‘Regent’s Park, and the various power struggles that might exist between M15 and the Home Office, not to mention the Prime Minister, and the police, in defence of the Realm.
However – don’t think anything like the glamour world of espionage. Rather, what goes on at the grubby (very grubby) edges. ‘Slough House’ is where those who failed, spectacularly, to make the grade, get shunted, to carry out the tedious work which the glamorous ones will need – the checking of licence plates, the trawl through electoral registers, the watching of hours of video footage. These are the sorry Z listers of MI5. Each of them has a back story, each a present which seems hopeless, each still hopes, somehow, to get back to the cutting edge of spookiness.
The band of marvellous failures are led by a gargantuan figure. Jackson Lamb is Falstaff without the joy, cruel as a shark, savage in his wit, – he comes out of the same reprehensible mould as another much loved monster Gene Hunt from Life of Mars – except, Jackson is far far sharper in devious intelligence.
(I couldn’t resist a glance back at the Gene Genie)
In this series Herron has a chilling finger on the button of the dangerous society we are sometimes aware we are living in, whilst managing to crack open the kind of back stabbing, juggles for power and position which we know goes on in large organisations, all wrapped up with cutting edge humour. And a delicious number of twists, turns, feints and dives to have the readers’ jaws dropping over and over. Nothing will be quite what it seems, and Herron will have done something coming out of left field again. And will get this reader, almost every time. Sometimes with an ‘oh no, oh NO’ moment – the life of a spook is a dangerous one, after all – sometimes with a shout of joy at the audaciousness of an event.
For firm fans of the series – the Slow Horse in the spotlight here is geeky Roderick Ho. Against the odds, Ho, imagining himself as the cool, sexy Rodster (this one really does think he is James Bond) has acquired a girl friend. The other horses in the field at the end of book 4, Spook Street, are all in place. And back at ‘Regent Park’ Lady Di, still second desk, is plotting and planning as only she can…….
In the world of Westminster and party politics are various figures who might seem more than a little familiar, or conglomerates of such figures. For example, the hail fellow-well met leader of a populist party and a vituperative columnist on a tabloid newspaper who is not at all averse to the spinning of fake news, especially if it will help her man into power. Any resemblance to any real figure is probably quite deliberate………
I received this, very gratefully, as a digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher, John Murray Books, and sincerely hope Mr Herron is well along with book 6.