Joe Country - Mick Herron

Uh…good evening, officer. What? the neighbours heard screaming? Oh sorry, see I just got my hands on the latest Mick Herron. My bad.

 

C’mon, I can’t be the only one celebrating.This is one of my all time favourite series, an annual no-brainer purchase. Last year Herron gave us a shortie called The Drop & that story line plus a couple of the characters are woven into this outing.

 

It all begins with a prologue that will have fans on edge. There are bodies in a barn in Wales. And rumour has it some agents from Slough House were involved. Hold that thought. You’re about to find out how some Slow Horses ended up dashing through the snow in the Welsh countryside.

 

As usual there are multiple story lines on the go. River Cartwright is finally burying his grandfather. The old spook’s funeral is a solemn & covert affair. Right up until….well, let me just point out Jackson Lamb & his crew are in attendance. Did you really expect normal?

 

Louisa Guy is still mourning the death of fellow agent Min Harper. They had a relationship of sorts so when Min’s widow gets in touch to request they meet, Louisa’s not sure it’s a good idea. It seems their teenage son Lucas is missing & Min’s wife thinks the least Louisa can do is find him. Eventually she agrees & uses her contacts to track him to…Wales?

 

Meanwhile over in Regents Part, Diana Taverner has a problem. Hannah Weiss is a double agent who infiltrated the German intelligence service for MI6. Not so long ago, things got a little messy & Lady Di cleaned up by “promoting” Lech Wicinski, a low level agent who got stuck in the middle. Yep, he now reports to Jackson Lamb. Even worse, he shares an office with Roddy Ho. Yeesh, talk about kicking someone when they’re down. All Lech can do is find those responsible for his spectacular fall from grace.

 

As for Lamb, he’d have been happy to continue spending his days devising new ways to offend his merry band of misfits. But events at the funeral put that on hold. He’s finally got a chance for revenge on an old foe & some off-the-books digging reveals his prey is in….Wales? Huh. Must be getting a bit crowded over there.

 

Once again I tried to slowly dole out the chapters & once again I failed. For me, these books are like potato chips. It’s impossible to have a little taste then put them away. After the prologue, this one slows down as the author sets the stage for everything to come. I love the way he makes Slough House another living, breathing character that quietly observes the poor souls who trudge through its door every day. There are many strands to the plot & he keeps them running smoothly until they inevitably intersect. Along the way you’re treated to action, intrigue, twists & laughs. No one does dry black humour quite like Herron & I’ve learned my lesson about reading his books in public. But on the upside, it turns out snorting & grinning like a loon ensures you get a seat to yourself on the train.

 

Beneath the humour & zany antics are serious moments of grief & loss. This is an author who doesn’t shy away from killing off a beloved character & the tradition continues here. The ending makes it clear there’s a conspiracy in the works, one even Lamb may not survive. And so the wait for the next one begins & I swear I’ll read it slowly (sure).