Slow Horses, Mick Herron 2010

It’s been some time since I read a book that had me breathlessly turning the pages and willing to stay up all night to finish it, but Herron has written one.  He did it with style, vivid descriptions of fascinating characters (“Her hair was still blonde, but only when you got close, and nobody got close.”), headlong action that left me hanging at the end of some chapters and breathlessly exhausted at the end of others. The plot is complex and the book zigs and zags between time periods so that I was occasionally disoriented and confused, but instead of being frustrated by that, it propelled the story.  In the opening pages we meet River Cartwright, the grandson of one of Britain’s most honored M5 spies, who has been exiled to Slough House, a group of misfits (the eponymous Slow Horses) who M5’s Second Desk Diana Taverner has sidelined because of one screw up or another. Cartwright doesn’t belong there nor does Slough House’s director, Jackson Lamb one of this genre’s most interesting characters, and the book is one convoluted tale of how they and the rest of the slow horses re-emerge as an effective squad when faced with the potential beheading of a Pakistani Brit on the internet.  This was Herron’s debut novel and I’m eager to read what he’s been up to during the last decade. This is a rather longish spy thriller, the perfect companion for a long airplane flight and its return.

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