Once you start reading a book by Mick Herron, it’s very hard to stop. I did try rationing myself, so as to prolong the reading pleasure, but it was no good. London Rules is the fifth Jackson Lamb mystery, about the failed secret service agents, known as Slow Horses, who work in Slough House (great name), under the supervision of the superb Jackson Lamb, a man of repulsive habits and apparent laziness, who nevertheless is always in the right place at the right time. He constantly abuses his minions yet will defend them against the might of Regent’s Park, where the top spooks work.
This book, like the others, opens with a terrorist incident which totally misleads the reader about its perpetrators and their aims. It then moves, in what has become a familiar Dickensian trick in these novels, to positing some entity, perhaps a cat but in this case the dawn, which explores and describes Slough House. This takes time and sets the pattern for the contradiction in the novels: the apparently slow narration of what are action-packed stories. Someone is out to murder Roddy Ho, the computer genius of Slough House, who is a walking deluded giant ego, generally loathed by his colleagues. What has he got mixed up in? The Slow Horses work out what it is and follow the trail but needless to say, they mess (euphemism) things up as usual. It’s so enjoyable to see Lamb yet again taking on ‘Lady Di’ and other grandees of the Service, and winning. As I’ve said before, one of the great pleasures of these books is that they are both exciting spy stories and funny; Lamb is very funny.
London Rules? They vary throughout the book but the first seems to be ‘cover your arse’. There’s a lot of covering to do, as the Service seems to be an institution based on back stabbing and looking after number one. If you’re new to these books, I recommend starting with the first, Slow Horses. What a treat it is to come to them for the first time. I read this book courtesy of the publishers and NetGalley and it’s out on 15th February.