Real Tigers (Slough House) - Mick Herron

It all begins when Batman & Spiderman meet on a rooftop in London. Yes, really. It may seem like an odd start but no worries. It's merely the first step into a plot with more twists & switchbacks than your average maze.

This is book #3 in the "Slough House" series. And it's another riveting tale with a healthy dose of laugh out loud black humour.

 

Slough House is the end of the road for MI5 agents. Not just anyone can get in. Each of these men & women has screwed up royally at some point in their career. Now they perform tasks so mind numbing, the tedium is only relieved by boredom.

But there's about to be a shake-up in the routine. When one of them gets proof a coworker has been snatched, it sets in motion a chain of events that will see them dusting off skills they haven't used in a long time.

Meanwhile, over at Regent Park, the bigwigs at MI5 have their own shake-up to deal with. There's a new Home Secretary overseeing the intelligence service & flexing his political muscle. He's also crazy. Forget foreign terrorists...you're more likely to be taken out by a colleague. Lying is like breathing for these people, necessary for life & they've elevated backstabbing to a level worthy of the Olympics.

As the story progresses, separate plot lines & characters begin to converge as old secrets & alliances come to light. Turns out while you were busy being entertained by machaivellian office politics, a classic game of spy vs. spy was underway.

 

This is not a standard thriller pitting the bad guys against the good. It's more like the ethically challenged against the least reprehensible. Luckily for us, they're hilarious.

Jackson Lamb rules Slough House with an iron fist & he's an equal opportunity offender. A memo outlining PC practices would quickly die of loneliness in the tip he calls an office. But don't be fooled. His caustic barbs (& dubious hygiene) provide cover for a man who's seen it all. Nothing gets by him & he's secretly protective of his little flock of misfits.

They include recovered alcoholic Catherine Standish, trying-to-quit gambler Marcus Longridge & actively delusional Rodney Ho. As for Home Secretary Peter Judd, all I can say is....eeewww.

What a great read. The author combines well developed characters with darkly funny dialogue them wraps them up tight in a smart, intricate plot. The last third is a full on thriller that has you turning the pages to see who is left standing. And just when your heart rate returns to normal...well, that would be telling.

This can be read as a stand alone but I'd recommend starting with "Slow Horses".