My first love when it comes to reading is crime fiction, I do enjoy a lot of non-fiction but I also love spy fiction. My knowledge isn’t encyclopaedic but I know what I like, my Kindle has the complete works of Ian Fleming and John Le Carré on it and I’ve read lots of books by newer spy writers too and the latest of these is the first in a series by Mick Herron.
Slow Horses features a group of MI5 agents who for a variety of reasons have found themselves internally exiled to Slough House where they are given boring, mind numbing jobs in the hope that they will decide to leave the service without the need for industrial tribunals or the need for a pension to be paid out to them. Overseen by Jackson Lamb, this band of agents don’t really like each other or their colleagues who are still in the game and enjoying the careers that they had until catastrophe struck. River Cartwright for example closed Kings Cross at rush hour when a training exercise went wrong, it wasn’t his fault but for reasons that become clear as the book progresses certain people wanted him out of the way and pushed him out to Slough House where he became what is known as a Slow Horse – Slough House/Slow Horse.
Now however this band of misfits have a crime to look into, Hassan a young British Asian student has been kidnapped and his kidnappers a group of white British extremists have vowed to behead him in three days on camera, there are no demands, he’s going to die. Can the Slow Horses save him whilst battling against the forces set against them?
I loved this book. First off it’s a great spy novel with enough details about the inner workings of MI5 to keep a spy buff happy – who cares if they are realistic or not, the truth is that we don’t know and all that matters is that Slow Horses feels genuine and at times the image of Harry Palmer popped into my head – this in my humble opinion is a good thing. The characters emerge throughout the book and are establish efficiently and with enough detail for you to like them, get frustrated with them and I got nervous at various points in the story – I needed to know what was going to happen.
Secondly Slow Horses is a book with a sense of humour, the agents riff off each other with one liners, jokes and there is an element of satire throughout the book – there’s a none too subtle portrait of a prominent politician halfway through the book which made me laugh and also question my opinion of the person in questions. Finally the book offers a commentary of the situation of Britain and the relationship between members of its various ethnic communities something which is a decisive an issue now as it was back in 2010 when Slow Horses came out. It doesn’t for one minute give us any answers but sadly the main storyline portrays a situation which I wouldn’t be too surprised to see happen at some point in the future – I hope I’m wrong.
Slow Horses is a good as I’d hoped it would be and I’m already reading the sequel Dead Lions and that’s even better.