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Search tags: Mick-Herron
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review 2017-08-06 21:31
"Slow Horses - Slough House #1" by Mick Herron - Le Carré rebooted in the modern day
Slow Horses - Mick Herron

"Slow Horses" is a (very) British spy thriller, set in contemporary London, in the post 7/7 bombing world of domestic anti-terrorism.

 

The slow horses of the title are security service people who have messed up and have been cut out of the herd of thoroughbreds with whom they've demonstrated they can't keep up. Their punishment is being sent to work at Slough House where they are given pointless routine work that is meant to demoralize them to the point where they will resign and save the Service the trouble of firing them.

 

This is a depressingly plausible situation. The Civil Service call this, nugatory work, i.e. work that is known to have no value.

 

Slough House is run as a fiefdom by Jackson Lamb, a mercurial despot with a reputation as a dangerous field agent. Discovering why he is there and what he wants is one of the mysteries of the book. His staff are a mixed bunch but it soon becomes clear that some of them are not what they seem. In the world that these folks inhabit, little is what it seems.

 

The plot revolves around the abduction and threatened execution of a boy of Pakistani descent by a group of right wing nationalist extremists. This takes us into BNP, EDL deluded English Nazis.

 

"Slow Horses" was published in 2010 and now seems rather horribly prescient. At one point, a right wing journalist (imagine that) is talking to a Tory cabinet minister who presents himself as a bumbling fool but is actually a driving force for English nationalism (not hard to imagine who that character could be based on, The journalist says:

 

‘Because we both know the tide’s turning. The decent people in this country are sick to death of being held hostage by mad liberals in Brussels, and the sooner we take control over our own future, our own borders …’


Given that this predates the Brexit debacle by half a decade, that's a little scary.

 

The plot is cunning without ever becoming Byzantine. The storytelling keeps the tension cranked up and throws in lots of surprises. The characters and how they interact with each other are credible and compelling. This is Le Carré for the modern day, with a faster pace and a new set of issues.

 

"Slow Horses" is a good thriller made exceptional by the plausibility of the people and the situations. It seems like an insider's view. As one of the retired Service guys says of Le Carré in this book, "Just because it's made up doesn't mean it's not true.

"Slow Horses" is the first in a series of Slough House novels. All of them are now on my "must read" list.

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review 2017-04-25 18:26
Spook Street / Mick Herron
Spook Street (Slough House) - Mick Herron

A shakeup at MI5 and a terrorist attack on British soil set in motion clandestine machinery known to few modern spies. David Cartwright isn't a modern spy, however; he's legend and a bonafide Cold War hero. He's also in his dotage and losing his mind to Alzheimer's. His stories of -stotes- hiding in the bushes, following his every move have been dismissed by friends and family for years. Cartwright may be losing track of reality but he's certain about one thing: Old spooks don't go quietly and neither do the secrets they keep.

 

Mick Herron has really hit his stride with the fourth book in the Slough House series! River Cartwright is an inspired creation, grandson of an admired British “spook” (that’s a spy to you & me) who has been sabotaged during a training exercise by a frenemy and ended up in Slough House, the place where failed spies go to be punished for their sins.

There’s been a bombing of a shopping centre, plus River is starting to worry about his grandfather’s mental state. He has the same concerns that everyone has about relatives with dementia, plus the added concern that his grandfather may indeed shoot someone who comes to the door, believing that they are out to get him. That spy-paranoia doesn’t just go away just because he is losing his grip on every-day life.

As per usual, Herron provides a complex plot, with plenty of twists & turns to keep the reader on their toes. There are interesting revelations from the past, political machinations of the most vicious & devious kinds, and Herron isn’t afraid to sacrifice a person or two along the way. The ending is also skillfull—I was given enough resolution to satisfy, while still left with enough loose threads that I am happily anticipating the next installment. Well played!

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text 2017-04-20 19:29
Current stack from the public library
Silent Spring - Rachel Carson,Linda Lear,Edward O. Wilson
Crocodile on the Sandbank - Elizabeth Peters
Paranormalcy - Kiersten White
Snake Agent - Liz Williams
Spook Street (Slough House) - Mick Herron
The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
A Beautiful Truth - Colin McAdam
A Morbid Taste for Bones - Ellis Peters

Its a good thing that I have a relatively unscheduled weekend coming up!  I've got a friend coming over to help me haul an old, old TV out of the house & off to recycling.  Then I've got to take a couple of boxes of books to the used book store.  Anything they don't want will go to the Calgary Reads book sale in May, to support literacy in the community.

 

Spring cleaning and spring reading.

 

 

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review 2017-03-16 23:48
Slow Horses by Mick Herron - My Thoughts
Slow Horses - Mick Herron

It sounded good when I read the blurb.  I wasn't sure about it until about half way through, but then it really got going and the twists and turns were twisty and turny and suddenly, I couldn't put it down!  *LOL*

The characters are, for the most part, quite unlikable.  Even the erstwhile hero, River Cartwright has his problems.  But, once I got to the second half of the book, I began to find them, still distasteful, but intriguing!

The plot was nice and twisty and turny, as I said, and kept me wondering until the end.  A few nice surprises along the way too.  Very British in feel, I thought.  Which is a good thing for a British spy novel, right?  And the subject of all the spy stuff is very topical for now.  Rising nationalist feelings and hate crimes against minorities.  Maybe a little too close to home?   Still... I enjoyed my read.

So I will be reading more of these.  :)

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review 2016-09-03 16:40
5/5 on the Hoot-meter
Spook Street (Slough House) - Mick Herron

I tried, I really tried.  The plan was to make it last. Read a few chapters, put it down, then repeat. Right…..I read it in a day because I was just having too much fun. When a new Mick Herron book comes out I will beg, borrow & steal to get my hands on it & this just might be the best of the bunch.

 

The prologue yanks you into a typical mall somewhere in London. It’s full of busy shoppers & bored teens lounging around the fountain. Then the unspeakable happens. A man steps into the crowd & detonates his vest. In the horrific aftermath, MI5 is called in to investigate & calm the public but things really hit the fan when the bomber is identified.

 

Meanwhile over at Slough House, River Cartwright worries about his grandfather. David Cartwright is a former spook who’s a legend in the spy world. But lately he seems a bit confused & doesn’t always recognize his grandson. He’s also dropping details about the old days that would best remain unsaid. What happens when a man full of state secrets begins to lose the plot? River has heard rumours about MI5 having an ”enhanced retirement package” for employees who become a problem & he’s determined to protect the man who raised him. That becomes a challenge when his next visit ends with a dead man in David’s bathroom.

 

Eventually these 2 threads intersect in ways that have the bigwigs at Regent Park scrambling to save their own skin. They’ve elevated backstabbing to an art form in an environment where “The Art of War” is probably required reading.

 

Book #4 of the “Slow Horses” series picks up in the aftermath of the last one & there have been some changes. Herron doesn’t hesitate to bump off establish characters so there are a few new faces at Slough House where MI5 agents labelled as screw-ups are sent to shift endless stacks of paper until they quit (or die, whichever comes first). But most of the original cast is back & they’re in fine form.

 

IT genius Rodney Ho continues to live in an alternate universe where everyone likes him & chicks think he’s hot. Shirley Dander has surrendered to HR requests to deal with her volatile personality & is faithfully attending AFM (anger fucking management) classes. Marcus Longridge still has that pesky little gambling problem & is so bored he’s water boarding Shirley.

 

Presiding over the crew is cold war relic Jackson Lamb. He’s never met someone he couldn’t offend & many would pay to see him gone but when you’ve been around a long time, you tend to know where the bodies are buried, literally.

 

These stories are always a great mix of smart intricate mystery & dry black humour. It’s full of moments that make you gasp, frequently followed by inappropriate laughter. Herron is a keen observer of the human condition & his depiction of David Cartwright’s battle with dementia somehow manages to be both poignant & hilarious. Even in his screwed up fictional world, you’ll recognize more than a kernel of reality as he satirizes politicians, government bureaucracy & public perceptions.

 

This one earns a spot on my “Top Ten” for 2016 (so far…) & I begin the long wait for book #5. If you’re a fan of Stuart MacBride or Jay Stringer, do yourself a favour & pick up “Slow Horses”.

 

 

 

 

                                               

 

 

                                              

 

 

 

 

 

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