Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Review of Slow Horses by Mick Herron (Soho Crime, 2010)
Slow Horses has an intriguing hook – what happens to spies that become a potential liability – those that have not done enough to be sacked but have a big question mark hanging over them? Are they forced out the service or put out to pasture? Britain’s answer is Slough House, a building full of misfits desperate to find their way back to the centre. In Slow Horses, the first book in a series, a young agent side-lined for causing a major emergency shutdown of a mainline station decides he’s not simply going to serve his time, but is going to earn a recall, even if it means going head-to-head with the centre. His ragbag collection of colleagues are soon, if reluctantly, drawn into his unofficial mission, and they’re all soon teetering on being out of their depth, with the exception of their boss, a field agent of some renown. Rather than stick with one point of focus, the tale spends time with each of the Slough House occupants, their rivals, and the victim at the core of their mission. It's a strategy that works well, introducing the reader to the ensemble cast. And rather than the story being a thriller with a capital T, the game being played is more cloak and dagger and character-driven, though there is still tension and some dramatic action. There is also some nice contextualisation concerning post 9/11 right-wing politics. The result is an enjoyable spy tale for the modern age that would translate well to television.