Mick Herron’s Slough House is where MI5 deposits the spooks it wants to fire but can’t, hoping they will quit out of shame, boredom, or fear of Jackson Lamb, the unhygienic Cold Warrior who rules the place like a personal fiefdom. Despite their incompetence—or perhaps because of it—the “slow horses,” as they’re derisively called, keep finding themselves in the middle of a national emergency or an MI5 op, which seem to be the same thing at times. And Jackson Lamb knows how to leverage these crises for the benefit of him and his crew.
Herron has published six novels in this series, with the seventh, Slough House, scheduled to release February 5, 2021. Each of them combines poetic prose (check out the openings and closings of each book especially), a convoluted plot worthy of John Le Carré, and some of the funniest characters and scenes in suspense noveldom. (You might hold your nose at Jackson Lamb’s vulgarity and stench, but he will make you laugh.)
In between novels, Herron occasionally produces novellas, such as The List (2015), The Drop (2018), and The Catch(2020). All of them feature John Bachelor, an MI5 “milkman” or handler of aged or retired MI5 assets, whose wife got the house and pension in the divorce and whose part-time salary doesn’t really cover expenses. So, as The Catch opens, he’s living in the apartment of the late Solomon Dortmund, last seen alive in The Drop and whose permanent retirement has not yet been noticed by “the Park” (MI5 HQ).
Or has it been? When Bachelor gets rousted out of Dortmund’s bed by Park employees, it’s clear HQ knows what’s going on. Bachelor is tasked with finding Benny Manors, a former asset he’s supposed to keep track of but lost long ago. In the process of finding him, Bachelor realizes Manors has the Jeffrey-Epstein goods on HRH What’s His Face, and alerts Lady Diana Tavener, the Park’s master, about Manors’ con in the offing. But when it comes to MI5, who’s conning whom?
Neither Jackson Lamb nor his Slough House epigones show their faces in The Catch, but Herron always seems to weave the threads of these novellas into his novels, so don’t be surprised if something here shows up in his forthcoming book in one way or another.
If you haven’t read the Slough House novels, you can skip The Catch, but if you’re current with the series and have a hankering for Herron, The Catch is a good, well, catch.
Mick Herron, The Catch (New York: SoHo Crime, 2020).
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