A gripping spy thriller from the bestselling author of Slow Horses, about a disastrous MI5 mission in Cold War Berlin—an absolute must-read for Slough House fans.
Set in the MI5 world of Slow Horses, now an Apple Original series from Apple TV+ starring Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas.
Two years ago, a hostile prime minister launched the Monochrome inquiry, investigating “historical over-reaching” by the British Secret Service. Monochrome’s mission was to ferret out any hint of misconduct by any MI5 officer—and allowed Griselda Fleet and Malcolm Kyle, the two civil servants seconded to the project, unfettered access to any and all confidential information in the Service archives in order to do so.
But MI5’s formidable First Desk did not become Britain’s top spy by accident, and she has successfully thwarted the inquiry at every turn. Now the administration that created Monochrome has been ousted, the investigation is a total bust—and Griselda and Malcolm are stuck watching as their career prospects are washed away by the pounding London rain.
Until the eve of Monochrome’s shuttering, when an MI5 case file appears without explanation. It is the buried history of a classified operation in 1994 Berlin—an operation that ended in tragedy and scandal, whose cover-up has rewritten thirty years of Service history.
The Secret Hours is a dazzling entry point into Mick Herron’s body of work, a standalone spy thriller that is at once unnerving, poignant, and laugh-out-loud funny. It is also the breathtaking secret history that Slough House fans have been waiting for.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Slow Horses author Mick Herron is the king of spies behaving badly. In this prequel to his darkly humorous Slough House series, civil servants Griselda Fleet and Malcolm Kyle are trudging through a seemingly pointless investigation when they find a mysterious file containing explosive information about an MI5 operation that took place during the fall of the Berlin Wall. Herron seamlessly splits the story between the Cold War and the present day, filling both timelines with his trademark peculiar characters. With pointed wit and an eye for bureaucratic detail that recalls spy fiction master John le Carré, he brings us into postwar Europe’s dark underworld. A terrific spy thriller in its own right, The Secret Hours is a riveting place to enter the entertaining world of Slough House.
Herron departs from his bestselling Slough House series for a riveting standalone thriller that combines modern political machinations with Cold War–era spy craft. New leadership in the British parliament results in the official cancellation of Monochrome, an infamously ineffective two-year-old inquiry meant to expose historical misconduct by MI5. Griselda Fleet and Malcolm Kyle, the civil servants who led the inquiry, are devastated: the embarrassment of Monochrome has all but eliminated their chances for future employment. Not long after Monochrome's cancellation, however, a stranger slips Malcolm an official file revealing an off-the-books Cold War–era MI5 operation that ended badly in 1994 Berlin. Griselda and Malcolm begin to investigate, and then testimony from the agent assigned to surveil Berlin station chief Brinsley Miles uncovers a new conspiracy to infiltrate British intelligence—which the once-disgraced civil servants are now uniquely positioned to thwart. Herron toggles between present-day London and Cold War–era Berlin, crafting memorable, morally complex characters along the way, without sacrificing any of his trademark humor (the book's opening sentence: "The worst smell in the world is a dead badger"). Espionage fans of all stripes will devour this exemplary outing.
Some writers of thrillers and espionage are good at describing action. The best, and Herron is certainly in this class, put the reader in the middle of it with only a minimal compass.
The Secret Hours
A perfectly first rate intellectually challenging spy novel in which all seemingly disparate threads are tightly woven into a thrilling conclusion which is satisfying and has the reader asking for more like this!
Doug Rothkopf -Boca Raton, Fl.
Bringing it home
What a thrilling and satisfying warp and weft of amazing characters exquisitely re-unveiled.