Slough House is the seventh novel in Mick Herron’s series about a department of agents MI5 doesn’t want but can’t fire. It is also the darkest and best installment. You can read it as a stand-alone, but trust me, you’re better off starting with Slow Horses and working your way through the series in order. The payoff will be huge.
The action begins with an assassination. We don’t know who or where at first, but when two former denizens of Slough House also end up dead, we learn both who and where and more importantly why. And learning why means the rest of Slough House is in danger, too. The plot is a race for time to see who gets to whom first.
I have two criteria for judging suspense novels like this: It must be so interesting that I want to turn the page to find out what happens next, and it must not tax my willing suspension of disbelief. Slough House is a believable page-turner, a success on both counts.
Moreover, Herron has drawn brilliant characters. Diana Taverner, MI5’s First Desk, is a cutthroat office politician. Disgraced politician Peter Judd is an oleaginous Macchiavellian whose way forward politically is as the power behind the throne. Catherine Standish is a white-knuckle recovering alcoholic who lends compassion, sanity, and a measure of organization to Slough House.
Then there’s her boss, Jackson Lamb—a streetwise Cold Warrior who smokes, drinks, flatulates, and insults readily and steadily, but also is the last face you want to see (or will see, period) if you mess with his Joes. Arthur Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes, and John Le Carre had George Smiley. Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb is one for the ages.
And the ending. If you’re not saying, “Don’t die” as you turn the last page, you haven’t been paying attention.
Mick Herron, Slough House (New York: SoHo Press, 2021).
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