Slow Horses by Mick Herron
September 6, 2023
The book reviewed for September was “Slow Horses”, by Mick Herron, and presented by Doug Gilpin.
Slow Horses is a fictional spy novel about the British secret service organization, MI-5, located at Regents Park in London. Members who have in some way failed in their duties or fallen out of favour have been banished to a decrepit building named Slough House, and these people are derisively referred to as “slow Horses”, and are destined to perform useless tasks forever, or until they simply quit. The chief of this crew, Jackson Lamb, is fat, crude, sarcastic, funny and rather brilliant. Other slow horses vary greatly in personality and character.
The MI-5 bureaucracy is set out in some detail, including management, spies ("spooks" and "joes"), a thuggish enforcement group ("Dogs), and "cleaners" who cleaned up messy scenes outside the law. One character is clearly based on ex-PM Boris Johnston.
Slow Horses is the first of a series of eight books about MI-5 and the slow horses, mostly involving the principals, Jackson Lamb and the senior MI-5 executive Diane Taverner, and some very odd "slow Horses", and a number of inept and always self-serving bureaucrats. The proposer of this book has read all eight books in the series, enjoying the humour and the challenge of guessing what was going on and where it was all headed.
The Slow Horse books are not for everyone, however. Book club reviews varied from a number of "Didn't like it at all" to "Really enjoyed the book". Criticisms particularly found the structure confusing, jumping from one set of characters or situation to another without announcing the change. There were four very low ratings (5 to 5.5) and the average was 6.2.