Dolphin Junction is a collection of eleven short stories by Mick Herron. Most of the stories were first published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. All of them center around mysteries, ranging from blackmail (“Proof of Love,” “What We Do”) to murder (“Remote Control”) to abduction (“Lost Luggage,” “Dolphin Junction”) to espionage (“An American Fridge,” “The Last Dead Letter”). One, “The Usual Santas,” involves mall Santa Clauses and could very well become a Christmas classic.
Herron is an award-winning mystery author and author of the Slough House espionage series, the Oxford Investigations series, and three other novels. Characters from those novels make an appearance here: Slough House’s Jackson Lamb (“The Last Dead Letter”) and Oxford Investigations’ Zoe Boehm (“Proof of Love,” “Mirror Images,” “The Other Half,” and “What We Do”).
Having read all seven Slough House novels and three novels, I was happy to see the Jackson Lamb character appear here. That series combines the complexity of a John LeCarre novel with what the chaos of a Monty Python sketch. Lamb—the flatulent Cold War spy handler who always seems to be drinking and smoking but never loses a battle of wits (or spies)—is a character for the ages. Herron’s eighth Slough House novel, Bad Actors, comes out in May 2022, and I’ve already ordered my copy.
I have never read the Oxford Investigations series, but after reading the stories featuring Zoe Boehm, I intend to start right away. Tech savvy, whip smart, and laconic, Boehm sees what Joe Silverman—her erstwhile husband and partner in the private investigation business—invariably misses. Silverman likes to think of himself as Raymond Chandler’s hardboiled detective, Philip Marlowe. Boehm actually is, albeit far more humorously.
Short stories are a hard sell for many readers, who prefer full-length novels. I understand that. However, these stories are smart and engaging. For readers unfamiliar with Herron, they will be an appetizer. For those who have already read his other works, they are the cherry on top of the sundae.
Mick Heron, Dolphin Junction: Stories (New York: Soho Crime, 2021).
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