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.
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.
London Rules is the fifth book in Mick Herron’s acclaimed Slough House series. Slough House is where MI5 houses agents it can neither fire nor put in the field, hoping they quit of their own volition instead. And it’s governed by a profane unhygienic Cold Warrior named Jackson Lamb who keeps things running, if not altogether smoothly, and not without a bit of blackmail of the higher ups.
In this installment, there are terrorists loose in England; political shenanigans involving an MP, the MP’s pundit wife, the Prime Minister, and the PM’s favorite Muslim politician. On top of that, someone’s trying to kill Slough House’s resident computer expert, whom no one at the house actually likes, but in an “us” versus “them” world, Slough House protects its own. That’s London Rules.
Mick Herron gets compared to John Le Carre, which is meant to be a compliment. I think it’s a bad comparison, though, because while Herron is a lovely writer, his plots aren’t as convoluted as Le Carre’s, and his descriptions of people and relationships frequently leave me laughing. I never smile at George Smiley. The suspense is still good, though.
If you haven’t read any of the Slough House books, start with Slow Horses and read them in order. You need the backstory to understand this book. If you like Slow Horses, you’ll like the entire series. If not, there’s no point in reading this book either.
Mick Herron, London Rules (New York: SoHo Press, 2018).
P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.