Source: Review copy #Netgalley
Publication Day: 20 June 2019 from John Murray
‘We’re spies,’ said Lamb. ‘All kinds of outlandish shit goes on.’
Like the ringing of a dead man’s phone, or an unwelcome guest at a funeral . . .
In Slough House memories are stirring, all of them bad. Catherine Standish is buying booze again, Louisa Guy is raking over the ashes of lost love, and new recruit Lech Wicinski, whose sins make him outcast even among the slow horses, is determined to discover who destroyed his career, even if he tears his life apart in the process.
And with winter taking its grip Jackson Lamb would sooner be left brooding in peace, but even he can’t ignore the dried blood on his carpets. So when the man responsible breaks cover at last, Lamb sends the slow horses out to even the score.
This time, they’re heading into joe country.
And they’re not all coming home.
I adore Mick Herron’s writing. It is acerbic, witty and coruscating. This is prose you can wallow in; feel it as it seeps slickly through your fingers leaving a residue of mingled pleasure and pain that never for a minute allows you to forget that spying is a deadly business.
The Slough House joes may be an oddball mixture of alcoholics, failures, psychopaths and narcissists, but they are Jackson Lamb’s joes. This bunch of failures, relegated from the more refined echelons of Regent’s Park, will never rest until they have f***ed up the clandestine espionage plan that no-one is supposed to know about.
Herron is spot on in his depiction of the abhorrent antics of the ruling classes, their foibles and sense of droit de seigneur. Royalty, politicians, Brexiteers all get it in the neck without fear or favour. Lamb himself continues to be the all-knowing, fearsome, grossly obese farting monster he always was.
In Joe Country Herron shows us that is not afraid to kill his darlings and we know from the start that not all the slow horses will make it home from their incursion into Wales.
Alec. ‘Lech’ Wicinski is a new slow horse. Sent to Slough House from Regent’s Park, an intelligence analyst accused of an unspeakable crime and loudly protesting his innocence, Wicinski is still sharp enough to know when narcissist Roddy Ho is poking about in his backstory.
Louisa Guy is getting over Min Harper’s death when she takes a call from Harper’s wife Claire. Claire and Min’s son, Lucas has gone meeting and she wants Louise to find him. After all, she tells Louise, ‘you were sleeping with him’ so clearly she owes Claire a favour.
River Cartwright is trying to handle his mother as he takes charge of burying his grandfather and former spook, whom he always thinks of as the ‘old Bastard’. The presence of his father skulking around the churchyard isn’t helping. Emma Flyte has been turfed out of Regent’s Park by newly promoted Diana Taverner and offered Slough House as a consolation. Emma is quick to tell Diana exactly what she can do with her job offer and quits.
When Louisa goes off grid, Lamb sends his Slow Horses out to Wales to find her and things pretty much go downhill from there. As ever though, after a mixture of screw ups, laugh out loud moments, violent deaths and some spectacular knowledge divination by Lamb, the world is set, more or less, to rights again.
The joy of Joe Country is the sheer blissfulness of Mick Herron’s characters. His willingness to take serious pot shots at the incompetence of the establishment not excepting Brexit and its politicians; his black, satirical humour – and most of all that prose. Rich, dark, intense and utterly, completely, wonderful.
Verdict: If you haven’t read the Slough House series you are missing something really exceptional. Herron has done it again. Joe Country is a brilliant, blissful book to die for.
Mick Herron is a novelist and short story writer whose books include the Sarah Tucker/Zoë Boehm series and the standalone novel RECONSTRUCTION. His work has been shortlisted for the Macavity, Barry and Shamus awards.
Mick is the author of the acclaimed Jackson Lamb series, the first of which, the Steel Dagger-nominated SLOW HORSES, was hailed by the Daily Telegraph as one of the “the twenty greatest spy novels of all time”. The second in the series, DEAD LIONS, won the 2013 CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger, and was picked by the Sunday Times as one of the best 25 crime novels of the past five years. The third, REAL TIGERS, was shortlisted for both the Gold and Steel Daggers, for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year, and for the 2017 Macavity Award. It won the Last Laugh Award at Crimefest 2017, for the best humorous crime novel of 2016.
Both the Jackson Lamb and the Zoë Boehm series are currently being developed for TV. Mick was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, and lives in Oxford. He writes full time.