Spook Street (Slough House) - Mick Herron

I tried, I really tried.  The plan was to make it last. Read a few chapters, put it down, then repeat. Right…..I read it in a day because I was just having too much fun. When a new Mick Herron book comes out I will beg, borrow & steal to get my hands on it & this just might be the best of the bunch.

 

The prologue yanks you into a typical mall somewhere in London. It’s full of busy shoppers & bored teens lounging around the fountain. Then the unspeakable happens. A man steps into the crowd & detonates his vest. In the horrific aftermath, MI5 is called in to investigate & calm the public but things really hit the fan when the bomber is identified.

 

Meanwhile over at Slough House, River Cartwright worries about his grandfather. David Cartwright is a former spook who’s a legend in the spy world. But lately he seems a bit confused & doesn’t always recognize his grandson. He’s also dropping details about the old days that would best remain unsaid. What happens when a man full of state secrets begins to lose the plot? River has heard rumours about MI5 having an ”enhanced retirement package” for employees who become a problem & he’s determined to protect the man who raised him. That becomes a challenge when his next visit ends with a dead man in David’s bathroom.

 

Eventually these 2 threads intersect in ways that have the bigwigs at Regent Park scrambling to save their own skin. They’ve elevated backstabbing to an art form in an environment where “The Art of War” is probably required reading.

 

Book #4 of the “Slow Horses” series picks up in the aftermath of the last one & there have been some changes. Herron doesn’t hesitate to bump off establish characters so there are a few new faces at Slough House where MI5 agents labelled as screw-ups are sent to shift endless stacks of paper until they quit (or die, whichever comes first). But most of the original cast is back & they’re in fine form.

 

IT genius Rodney Ho continues to live in an alternate universe where everyone likes him & chicks think he’s hot. Shirley Dander has surrendered to HR requests to deal with her volatile personality & is faithfully attending AFM (anger fucking management) classes. Marcus Longridge still has that pesky little gambling problem & is so bored he’s water boarding Shirley.

 

Presiding over the crew is cold war relic Jackson Lamb. He’s never met someone he couldn’t offend & many would pay to see him gone but when you’ve been around a long time, you tend to know where the bodies are buried, literally.

 

These stories are always a great mix of smart intricate mystery & dry black humour. It’s full of moments that make you gasp, frequently followed by inappropriate laughter. Herron is a keen observer of the human condition & his depiction of David Cartwright’s battle with dementia somehow manages to be both poignant & hilarious. Even in his screwed up fictional world, you’ll recognize more than a kernel of reality as he satirizes politicians, government bureaucracy & public perceptions.

 

This one earns a spot on my “Top Ten” for 2016 (so far…) & I begin the long wait for book #5. If you’re a fan of Stuart MacBride or Jay Stringer, do yourself a favour & pick up “Slow Horses”.