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.

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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.

Past Tense | Book Review


Midnight Line, Lee Child’s previous Jack Reacher novel, was a page-turner, but it left me wondering whether Reacher was getting a bit old for all the action Child put him through. I gave it a four-star review, but to be honest, I promised myself I would give Child only one more chance to keep my interest in Reacher. Past Tense kept my interest.

The novel has three storylines. One, Reacher finds himself in Laconia, New Hampshire, where his dad was born and raised. The only problem? There’s little trace of Stan Reacher there. Two, while searching for records of his dad, Reacher beats up a man bullying a woman. Unfortunately, the man is connected to bad actors who come to Laconia looking to settle a score. Three, a Canadian couple find themselves stranded at a remote motel where the owner and his business partners act more than a little strange. The owner’s last name? Reacher.

As always, Child brings these storylines together in an explosive conclusion that kept me turning pages, which is the primary way I evaluate suspense novels. (I read the novel in two long sittings.)

This isn’t the best of the Reacher novels. However, it’s good enough to keep me interested through next year when, come fall, I’m sure Child will publish Reacher’s next adventure. I hope it’s set in San Diego. That’s where Reacher is heading, and lots of interesting happens in San Diego, or could happen, if Reacher were there.

Book Reviewed
Lee Child, Past Tense: A Jack Reacher Novel (New York: Delacorte Press, 2018).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Helpful” on my Amazon.com review page.

London Rules | Book Review


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.

Book Reviewed
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.

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