Summary: Slough House, which is neither a house nor in Slough, is where the British intelligence service hides its embarrassments. For those who have left top-secret files on a train, botched a surveillance, been the scapegoat for organizational failings or just become unreliably drunk, Slough House is the destination, where grinding and repetitive tasks await. Dubbed ‘Slow Horses’ by the rest of the service, agents such as the bitter River Cartwright are a laughing stock. When a young Pakistani man is kidnapped, and his jailers threaten to behead him live on the Internet, River sees his chance at redemption. But everything is not what it seems to be, and soon everyone at Slough House must choose whether or not to take up arms in the fight for which they were first trained.
Review: The ‘organizational outcasts make good’ plot has, of course, been done before. Herron, however, writes well enough to breathe new life into a worn genre trope. The story is plausibly twisty, with sympathetically drawn characters complex enough to follow their own prerogatives rather than simply queue up to meet the narratives needs. The cultural milieu is, however, extremely British; American readers may feel the urge to look up words and phrases from time to time. In a thriller, this can be significantly disruptive to the story. But this is a small quibble with a book that, overall, delivers what it promises. If Herron makes a series out of his ‘Slow Horses,’ he may perhaps keep in mind the poor confused blokes over hear on the wrong side of the pond.
Read-a-likes: For fans of British espionage novels, the gold standard is still John le Carre. In recent years, Stella Rimington (a former director of MI5) has become a significant new voice as well. For a zanier, but still classic, espionage story, Ian Fleming’s James Bond stories are worth a look. Other authors worth taking a look at include Jeremy Duns and Laura Wilson.
Availability: Lake Bluff Public Library owns Slow Horses as a book, click here to check on the availability.