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Slow Horses by Mick Herron
Review by Mel Jacob
Soho Constable Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569476437
Date: 01 June 2010 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Mick Harmon has created a clever, literate, and darkly humorous thriller in his latest novel Slow Horses. The horses are MI5 agents who messed up in one way or another. They've all been exiled to the aptly named Slough House. Assigned boring repetitive tasks such as monitoring phone logs, websites, property and money transfer, etc., they flounder in apathy and routine that saps their energy. Then a web broadcast of a hooded man appears with his captors threatening to behead him in forty-eight hours. No one can believe such an event could happen in the U.K. Each of the "slow horses" wishes they could stop the murder and free the victim.

Jackson Lamb rules his mismatched crew at Slough House with an iron hand. River Cartwright, grandson of a legendary MI5 agent, believes Lamb wants to force the "slow horses" to quit. However, they all want to return to service as agents and not data pushers. Convinced his best friend set him to fail, River fumes and plots to regain his rightful place.

When his office mate Sid Baker acquires the files of a journalist whose garbage Lamb had insisted River sift for clues, he wants to know what's in those files, He steals them, but discovers only an endless stream of Pi. Frustrated, he consults his grandfather.

Meanwhile, the videos of the young man continue and the threats are repeated. It becomes clear that man is a British-born Pakistani related to a high-ranking Pakistani intelligence office. The group holding him may be a group of those against immigration and disgusted at the changing nature of British life. Political implications concern MI5. However, nothing is quite what it seems.

When the journalist's apartment is invaded by an assassin or burglar, River tried to intervene, but Sid is shot. Horrified, River calls for an ambulance. The Deputy Director of MI5 wants the whole episode swept under the rug. Sid's injury causes Lamb to take part. Slough House is his kingdom and he guards it and the slow horses with fierce pride.

The novel provides views and backgrounds on each of the slow horses. When two of them discover a burglar after hours in Lamb's office, a death occurs. It mobilizes Lamb to delve into the conspiracy.

Suspecting a high-level cover-up, he alerts his slow horses and mobilizes them to locate and free the young man. So far, the police have proved ineffectual. A chance at redemption and proving their worth fires the team. Meanwhile, Lamb and River tackle MI5.

Reminiscent of LeCarre, Herron provides a great read with plenty of action. Dark humor livens the narrative. Interesting characters and twists keep the pages turning.

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