Saturday, 26 May 2018

Book Review: Dead Lions by Mick Herron

About the Book

London's Slough House is where the washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what's left of their failed careers. The "slow horses," as they’re called, have all disgraced themselves in some way to get relegated here. Maybe they messed up an op badly and can't be trusted anymore. Maybe they got in the way of an ambitious colleague and had the rug yanked out from under them. Maybe they just got too dependent on the bottle—not unusual in this line of work. One thing they all have in common, though, is they all want to be back in the action. And most of them would do anything to get there─even if it means having to collaborate with one another.

Now the slow horses have a chance at redemption. An old Cold War-era spy is found dead on a bus outside Oxford, far from his usual haunts. The despicable, irascible Jackson Lamb is convinced Dickie Bow was murdered. As the agents dig into their fallen comrade's circumstances, they uncover a shadowy tangle of ancient Cold War secrets that seem to lead back to a man named Alexander Popov, who is either a Soviet bogeyman or the most dangerous man in the world. How many more people will have to die to keep those secrets buried?

My Thoughts

I am now quite addicted to the Slough House series, yet I’m taking my time in reading them because they are well worth savouring.

In Dead Lions, the focus is on relationships with Russia, both those from the past and in the future. A low-level agent whose heyday was way back during the Cold War is dead, and only Jackson Lamb, The Slough Horse boss, seems to think there’s more to it than an old drunk dying. And looking forward, those in power, as well as those looking to be in power, are jockeying to form relationships with particular Russians who power base is increasing back in Russia.

There are plenty of twists and turns in the story that kept me highly engaged but once again, it’s the “Slow Horses” and their relationships with each other, and others at the fictitious Mi5 HQ in Regent’s Park, that make the book unique. Herron’s characters are often witty and wily, but rarely likeable. It’s really a case of every person for themselves in this professional setting. Even when they are co-operating on the surface, there are plenty of behind the scenes machinations as everyone tries to protect themselves but gain an advantage; for those in Slough House the aim being entry back to Regent’s Park HQ.

I highly recommend this book, and the Slough House series.

About the Author

Mick Herron is a novelist and short story writer whose books include the Sarah Tucker/ZoĆ« Boehm series and the standalone novel Reconstruction.  His work has been shortlisted for the Macavity, Barry and Shamus awards, and his novella DOLPHIN JUNCTION was joint winner of the 2009 Ellery Queen Readers Award. His second standalone, Nobody Walks, was shortlisted for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger in 2015, and was one of Booklist Magazine’s Best 101 Crime Novels of the Decade.

He is the author of the acclaimed Jackson Lamb series, the first of which, the Steel Dagger-nominated Slow Horses was hailed by the Daily Telegraph as one of the “the twenty greatest spy novels of all time”. The second in the series, Dead Lions, won the 2013 CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger, and was picked by the Sunday Times as one of the best 25 crime novels of the past five years. The third, Real Tigers, was shortlisted for both the Gold and Steel Daggers, for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year, and for the 2017 Macavity Award. It won the Last Laugh Award at Crimefest 2017, for the best humorous crime novel of 2016.

Spook Street, the fourth Jackson Lamb novel – praised by Ian Rankin for its “sublime dialogue and frictionless plotting” – won the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2017.

The fifth Jackson Lamb novel, LONDON RULES, will appear in 2018.

Mick was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, and now lives in Oxford. He writes full time. 

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