“Slow Horses” is the first in Mick Herron's Jackson Lamb Series, and sets the tone for what are sure to become spy classics.
When sitting down, (or standing as the case may be—I read in most environments) to read a spy novel I expect certain things. A varied pace that slowly ramps up, a twisting plot that keeps me guessing, and characters that I can root for or against. While “Slow Horses” has this in spades, it also has something I never thought to look for, but am so glad I found; humour.
Not humour in the sense of a wee titter, no, I'm talking laugh out-loud, make a fool of yourself on a bus, hilariousness.
The novels in the series follow MI5's “Freaks and Geeks”, the weirdos, people with issues so severe that the Service can't fire them, but neither can they let them continue to work with sensitive material. The answer: Slough House. Where MI5 sends everyone it doesn't want to see again. Their intention being that intelligence work in Slough House is so menial, so boring; that the person will quit thus relieving the MI5 of their problem.
That would be if not for Jackson Lamb. A politically incorrect George Smiley, Lamb was once a top field agent, but now ageing he settles himself on the running on slough house and using his incompetent agents to interfere in the Services real business. Only when Lamb decides interference is necessary.
Still with his ear to the ground Lamb is the only character who ever knows the full story and he uses this knowledge to lead employees, his employers, and his enemies on a merry goose chase which is equal parts break-neck action/hyper-aware comedy.
In Slow Horses Lamb gets involved, when a young Muslim is kidnapped by BNP worshipping-home grown terrorists, who are threatening to behead the kid unless their demand is met: a Britain only for “true” Britons.
Taking a nod from Le Carré in all the right ways, Mick Herron creates a world that is irresistible for fans of thrillers and espionage alike. This is one of my favourite series and I challenge anyone to read the first one and not be forced to read the next FOUR in quick succession.