Joe Country | Book Review


Joe Country is the eighth installment in Mick Herron’s series about a motley group of disgraced agents whom MI5 cannot fire outright, so it sends them to Slough House instead and hopes the boredom of their tasks there grinds them into resigning voluntarily.

This installment begins at the end of the tale with the murders of two “slow horses,” as Slough House’s denizens are derisively named. A “Joe,” in the argot of the intelligence world, is a spy run by a handler. And Slough House’s “handler,” the incongruously named late-Cold War veteran Jackson Lamb—he’s anything but—doesn’t like others messing with his Joes. The remainder of the novel rehearses the who, what, when, where, how, and why of these murders, and narrates the slow horses’ exaction of, if not exactly revenge, at least something approaching justice.

Mick Herron’s plots are labyrinthine, but his characters, their interactions, and conversations contain sly, dry British humor that result in books that feel, like a cross between John LeCarre and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. This is especially true of Jackson Lamb, whose cunning is exceeded only by a noticeable lack of hygiene, etiquette, and temperance. Lamb doesn’t carry the action in this, or any of the other installments in the Slough House series, but he is their beating heart.

Joe Country, like the previous five novels in this series, is a page-turner, which is my number-one criteria for evaluating good murder/suspense novels. (The novellas are quick reads and provide crucial backstory for the novels that succeed them, but they’re not page-turners, in my book.) I suppose you could read it as a stand-alone book, but I think you would miss out on a lot by not knowing the back story of the characters and their stories. Start with Slow Horses and read your way forward through this excellent series.

Book Reviewed
Mick Herron, Joe Country (New York: Soho Press, 2019).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

The Marleyborne Drop | Book Review



Mick Herron’s Joe Country comes out on June 11, 2019, and features the usual suspects from Slough House, where MI5 sends the incompetent agents it can’t fire outright but would like to resign. I eagerly anticipate its publication, as Herron is easily one of the best suspense writers currently in operation—and funny to boot.

The events of The Marleyborne Drop, a Slough House novella, take place between London Rules and Joe Country. Solomon Dortmund, a pensioned Cold War asset, thinks he has witnessed a drop—an exchange of intelligence between an asset and her foreign handler—and informs his own semi-retired handler, John Bachelor. Bachelor passes along the information to Alec Wicinski, an MI5 analyst, who on the sly queries the identity of one of the parties involved.

Dortmund winds up dead. Wicinski winds up disgraced (and headed to Slough House). Bachelor ends up defrauding the British government. But the asset gets a promotion and her foreign handler gets away scot free.

As per usual, Herron’s writing is a delight, and this little story keeps you turning pages. The ending left me feeling meh, however, which is why I’m giving the novella three stars. On the other hand, I look forward to seeing what happens to Alec Wicinski. If Joe Country builds on The Marleyborne Drop and makes sense of the ending, my review will be revised upward.

Book Reviewed
Mick Herron, The Marleyborne Drop: A Novella(New York: Soho Press, 2018).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: