Ian Fleming. John le Carré. Len Deighton. Mick Herron. The brilliant plotting of Herron’s twice CWA Dagger Award-winning Slough House series of spy novels is matched only by his storytelling gift and an ear for viciously funny political satire.
“Mick Herron is the John le Carré of our generation.”—Val McDermid
At MI5 headquarters Regent’s Park, First Desk Claude Whelan is learning the ropes the hard way. Tasked with protecting a beleaguered prime minister, he’s facing attack from all directions: from the showboating MP who orchestrated the Brexit vote, and now has his sights set on Number Ten; from the showboat’s wife, a tabloid columnist, who’s crucifying Whelan in print; from the PM’s favorite Muslim, who’s about to be elected mayor of the West Midlands, despite the dark secret he’s hiding; and especially from his own deputy, Lady Di Taverner, who’s alert for Claude’s every stumble. Meanwhile, the country’s being rocked by an apparently random string of terror attacks.
Over at Slough House, the MI5 satellite office for outcast and demoted spies, the agents are struggling with personal problems: repressed grief, various addictions, retail paralysis, and the nagging suspicion that their newest colleague is a psychopath. Plus someone is trying to kill Roddy Ho. But collectively, they’re about to rediscover their greatest strength—that of making a bad situation much, much worse.
It’s a good thing Jackson Lamb knows the rules. Because those things aren’t going to break themselves.
British author Herron's superlative fifth Slough House novel (after 2017's Spook Street) opens with a terrorist attack in Derbyshire that kills 12. All MI5 resources are looking for the culprits with the notable exception of the "slow horses," the spies demoted to London's Slough House, who suffer from self-doubt and the crushing weight of the abuse of their leader, Jackson Lamb, "a fat bastard you dismissed at your peril." They are actually pretty competent, and one of them, J.K. Coe, has a powerful insight into the Derbyshire terrorists after a second attack. Meanwhile, someone's trying to kill hacker Roddy Ho, and Ho's colleagues want to know who and why. Eventually, the investigation into Ho's attempted murder converges with the search for the terrorists. The ironic title, an echo of the "Moscow rules" trope of cold war fiction, conjures up the absurdities and intrigues of bureaucracy, espionage, and politics. Herron combines a strong plot with a fine, often comic style as he celebrates the power of community in response to terrorsim.