At The Lane, Mick Herron's spy books have rated high on the charts of customer favourites since 2010, when the first in the Slough House series, Slow Horses, hit the shelves. With each new release our readers would bring them to the counter, thrilled with the prospect of sharing another espionage misadventure with Jackson Lamb and his misfits. Delighted and eager to to share the joy they would urge me to read Mr Herron, promising me I wouldn't be disappointed. It took me 10 years and a stint in quarantine before I opened my first Slough House, they were right, I have loved each and everyone of them.
Herron starts every book with a tour of Slough House. A four story neglected building in Aldergate St, 'where the dull weight of mediocrity hangs heavy'.... 'the building is a bad tooth set in a failing mouth. Here is where nothing happens: nothing to see here. Move along.' He also ends each book at Slough House after an awful lot has happened here.
Along with the mould, desperation and the reek of failure rises from the opening pages. Slough House is where MI5 banishes its agents who have disgraced themselves. Here they hope they will succumb to the humiliation of exile, the mind numbing boredom, and the head banging fruitily of Slough House and give in and resign. Much easier than going through HR's hoops to fire them.
Overseeing this tenth circle of hell is Jackson Lamb. Jackson Lamb was a spook, an agent in the field, a Cold War warrior. A legend and a truly, truly appalling character. A bellicose menace he goads and torments his slow horses, this larger than life character terrifies and horrifies in equal measure. Lamb makes an art form of being un-PC, he is a man you would never invite into your home, but he also really makes you laugh. Herron's dialogue is razor sharp.
All seven books are clever, tightly plotted contemporary page turners shot through with biting political satire and a dark humour. While you could read each title as a standalone you would be doing yourself a disservice. Herron constructs his plots and develops his characters with a subtlety that renders them and the scenarios disturbingly plausible - like Lamb he plays the long game, each book builds on the others.
Impressively 6 of the 7 books in the series have either been shortlisted for or won crimes most prestigious awards. I am sure the 7th and latest, Slough House will also collect accolades. I just hope it isn't the last in the series, I am not ready to say goodbye to the slow horses.