Sunday 21 January 2018

Slow Horses by Mick Herron

I don't often read Spy Fiction (Spy-Fi?) but I've seen this series (4 books so far with a 5th due soon) in bookstores and it keeps catching my attention, so what the hell, I thought, let's give it a go.

The Slow Horses of the title are a bunch of 'not quite ex' spies and operatives working out of Slough House (the idea being that Slough House sounds a bit like Slow Horse and the name was apt so stuck). Slough House is where you are sent when you've cocked up your career for whatever reason in the hopes that the tedium of pushing paper and reading boring phone transcripts all day every day will make you quit the service. No-one is happy here, no-one particularly gets on well with each other and nobody really likes The Boss, Jackson Lamb - and he seems to think equally little of them.

The story revolves around the kidnapping and planned execution of a young man by British Nationalist types where all is possibly not as it seems. The Intelligence Services have plans for a rescue but when things go wrong somebody has to take the blame. The 'high-ups' plan to dump it on Slough House, Jackson Lamb has other ideas though.

I'll be honest, this book was a slow burner and I very nearly gave up early on but around the 40% mark things picked up and I think that was probably the part where Lamb came into his own as a character. Trust me, James Bond he is not.

Jackson Lamb is overweight, scruffy, farts a fair bit and isn't particularly likable - there is even a scene towards the end where he is in a room with one of the Intelligence 'higher-ups' and does a scratch and sniff on his armpit. That's the kind of guy he is... or seems to be. For all his foibles though JL is very good at what he does - moves quicker, is tougher than he looks and has a quite astute brain. Misjudge him at your peril is probably the best way to define him.

As the first in a series this sets things up nicely and, you know what? For all his nasty, farty obnoxiousness Jackson Lamb might have just become one of my favourite characters.


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