Slow Horses by Mick Herron

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Don’t you love that feeling you get when you discover a new series to read/listen to?  I love books about spies, and came across a series of books called Slough House by Mick Herron recently. Now listening to number five, I was surprised to see the first was published in 2010. I must have been asleep.

Slough House is an offshoot of the main building which houses MI5, Regent’s Park. People at Slough House have in the main stuffed up their spying life and are now relegated to the backwaters to scan files, do odd jobs and regret their fate.

A more jaundiced man cannot be conceived, Jackson Lamb is at their head, and his behaviour is crass in the extreme, delighting in voicing poisonous barbs at his co workers. Herron teases out information about the handful of inmates of Slough House, giving us snippets of their back stories, all scarred by their history. Called the Slow Horses by the real spies, each of them would do anything to get back in the game.

So when a boy is kidnapped the assailants promising to behead him on live TV, River Cartwright jumps at the chance to be involved hoping this may lead to his exoneration.  River was relocated after a failed training exercise caused the shut down of King’s Cross Station, and he thinks about the mistake he’s been saddled with constantly. He is sure that the other trainee, ‘Spider’ Webb manipulated his demise and having to deal with him again is galling.  River and the Slow Horses track the kidnappers, but the clues lead them in an unexpected direction one which sees Min, one of the Slow Horses, killed. And the realisation that it is all for a political stunt leaves the crew with an even nastier feeling towards Regent’s Park.

The characters are all fascinating, voicing frustrations that would leave readers questioning their own easy lives, but finding a lot of sympathy for their plight. From the alcoholic Catherine, the coke snorting Shirley, gambling addict Marcus,  and newly partnered Min and Louisa, each of them will evoke sympathy from the readers. A host of other characters who work in Regent’s Park, as well as those in charge, Lamb, Diana Taverner and Ingrid Trelloar, each of the latter having hidden agendas behind the kidnapping event. Plot twists, lots of humour and quick quirky dialogue had me listening on the edge of my seat. A thriller and spy story, told with a lashing of humour, this is a great read and I look forward to the next in the series.

A TV series of Slough House, called Slow Horses is available on Apple TV.

Themes: Missing persons, Secret Service.

Fran Knight