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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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review 2016-02-20 18:23
Real Tigers / Mick Herron (Slough House series #3)
Real Tigers (Slough House) - Mick Herron

London’s Slough House is where disgraced MI5 operatives are reassigned to spend the rest of their spy careers pushing paper. But when one of these “slow horses” is kidnapped by a former soldier bent on revenge, the agents must breach the defenses of Regent’s Park to steal valuable intel in exchange for their comrade’s safety. The kidnapping is only the tip of the iceberg, however, as the agents uncover a larger web of intrigue that involves not only a group of private mercenaries but also the highest authorities in the Security Service. After years spent as the lowest on the totem pole, the slow horses suddenly find themselves caught in the midst of a conspiracy that threatens not only the future of Slough House, but of MI5 itself.

 

This series is really growing on me. Who can resist the slow horses, the failed MI-5 agents, these anti-Bonds?  All of them desperately want to be back in the espionage game and not pushing paper after boring paper over in Slough House, a facility so obscure many members-in-good-standing of MI-5 don’t even know it exists.  So when any excuse presents itself, they fall all over themselves to get out there and try to kick some butt.

 

For me, it’s the characters that really make these stories work. I can’t help but root for River Cartwright, who ended up at Slough House when a practice op that he was running was sabotaged by a frenemy and went horribly wrong.  I’m cheering for him to finally be able to prove his worth and go back to the main office.  All the denizens of Slough House have some horrible failure in their backgrounds—alcoholism, gambling addiction, a reliance on cocaine, you name it.  And then there’s my favourite—Rodney Ho, who is just so obnoxious that no one wants him in their office.  Rodney has no social skills, a vivid fantasy life, and the ability to work the internet like no one else in the office.  If you’re a Criminal Minds fan, think of him as a male version of Garcia with no redeeming human graces.  His misguided attempts to blackmail the other slow horses or try to attract romantic attention provide the light moments in these thrillers.

 

Of course, there is always Jackson Lamb, the rather revolting supervisor of this motley lot. Messy, rude, bigoted, and able to produce a reeking fart at will, he is about as far from the Bond ideal as you can get, and yet he proves himself a very capable agent on many occasions.  One of the reasons that I keep reading is to figure out exactly how Lamb got to this situation.

 

If you’re tired of professional spies wearing slick clothes and drinking sophisticated cocktails, give the Slough House bunch a try. I think you’ll be totally entertained.

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review 2015-10-16 04:30
Real Tigers (Slough House) - Mick Herron

It all begins when Batman & Spiderman meet on a rooftop in London. Yes, really. It may seem like an odd start but no worries. It's merely the first step into a plot with more twists & switchbacks than your average maze.

This is book #3 in the "Slough House" series. And it's another riveting tale with a healthy dose of laugh out loud black humour.

 

Slough House is the end of the road for MI5 agents. Not just anyone can get in. Each of these men & women has screwed up royally at some point in their career. Now they perform tasks so mind numbing, the tedium is only relieved by boredom.

But there's about to be a shake-up in the routine. When one of them gets proof a coworker has been snatched, it sets in motion a chain of events that will see them dusting off skills they haven't used in a long time.

Meanwhile, over at Regent Park, the bigwigs at MI5 have their own shake-up to deal with. There's a new Home Secretary overseeing the intelligence service & flexing his political muscle. He's also crazy. Forget foreign terrorists...you're more likely to be taken out by a colleague. Lying is like breathing for these people, necessary for life & they've elevated backstabbing to a level worthy of the Olympics.

As the story progresses, separate plot lines & characters begin to converge as old secrets & alliances come to light. Turns out while you were busy being entertained by machaivellian office politics, a classic game of spy vs. spy was underway.

 

This is not a standard thriller pitting the bad guys against the good. It's more like the ethically challenged against the least reprehensible. Luckily for us, they're hilarious.

Jackson Lamb rules Slough House with an iron fist & he's an equal opportunity offender. A memo outlining PC practices would quickly die of loneliness in the tip he calls an office. But don't be fooled. His caustic barbs (& dubious hygiene) provide cover for a man who's seen it all. Nothing gets by him & he's secretly protective of his little flock of misfits.

They include recovered alcoholic Catherine Standish, trying-to-quit gambler Marcus Longridge & actively delusional Rodney Ho. As for Home Secretary Peter Judd, all I can say is....eeewww.

What a great read. The author combines well developed characters with darkly funny dialogue them wraps them up tight in a smart, intricate plot. The last third is a full on thriller that has you turning the pages to see who is left standing. And just when your heart rate returns to normal...well, that would be telling.

This can be read as a stand alone but I'd recommend starting with "Slow Horses". 

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review 2015-09-12 19:21
Herron goes hardboiled
Nobody Walks - Mick Herron

After a long career as an ops agent for MI-5, Tom Bettany had had enough.  He'd gone undercover for years to bust the McGarry crime organization, and that experience was a stain on the soul.  When his wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor, he quit to be with her and their son, Liam.  After Hannah died, the estrangement from Liam that had begun during his undercover years turned to a complete split.

 

Bettany became a bit of a drifter, leaving England for France and taking strenuous physical jobs, like his latest one in a meat packing plant.  When he gets a call saying that Liam died from a fall from his apartment balcony, where he had been smoking a powerful new strain of marijuana called muskrat, Bettany comes home.  Not just to go to the funeral, but to find out exactly what happened.

 

It doesn't take much of his old intelligence skills for Bettany to figure out that Liam's death was no accident.  Now he needs to find out who is responsible and make them pay.  With no official sanction and a fierce thirst for revenge, though, Bettany's methods of investigation lack a certain subtlety.  In short order, he has problems with a whole raft of dangerous characters, including the muskrat distribution gang's kingpin, McGarry gang members, and the muscle for Liam's boss, a multi-millionaire video game creator.  And when he gets a call from MI-5, that's not good news, either.

 

I got to know Herron's writing in the last couple of years, when I read his Slow Horses and Dead Lions, books about a group of MI-5 agents who have been exiled from Regent's Park, where the real intelligence action is, to Slough House because of various screwups and misdeeds. These castoff agents are expected to resign at the sheer humiliation, but they're determined to hang on, distinguish themselves somehow and scrape their way back across the Thames.

 

The Slough House series books are terrific thrillers, stylishly written and with plenty of of cynical humor.  One running schtick is how the Slough House boss, the slovenly and casually offensive Jackson Lamb, is able to puncture the two top iron ladies at Regent's Park, Ingrid Tearney and Diana Tavener.

 

You definitely don't have to read the Slough House books to enjoy Nobody Walks.  It stands on its own and has a different style.  There is not much humor to be had in Tom Bettany's story.  This is a grim and gritty revenge thriller.  You can't call Bettany likable, but he's a riveting character and the story is both action-packed and thought-provoking, with plenty of twists and turns.  If this book were made into a movie––which would be a great idea––I could see Daniel Craig or Liam Neeson playing Bettany.

 

If you have read the Slough House books, I think you'll get a kick out of seeing the iron ladies, and you may wonder, as I do, whether Nobody Walks is the end of the Bettany story or if there will be a sequel.  And if there is a sequel, might the Slough House gang come along for the ride?

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