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“Slough House was a branch of the Service, certainly, but ‘arm’ was pitching it strong. As was ‘finger’, come to that; fingers could be on the button or on the pulse. Fingernails, now: those you clipped, discarded, and never wanted to see again. So Slough House was a fingernail of the Service: a fair step from Regent’s Park geographically, and on another planet in most other ways. Slough House was where you ended up when all the bright avenues were closed to you. It was where they sent you when they wanted you to go away, but didn’t want to sack you in case you got litigious about it”
Spook Street is the fourth book in the Slough House series by British author, Mick Herron. Jackson Lamb is hungover, par for the course, but not the best state for dealing with a problem of this magnitude. David Cartwright, Service legend and grandfather of one of his Slough House crew, has apparently shot his grandson. River Cartwright had been worried that the O.B., subsiding into dementia, would do something silly and dangerous, and that does seem to be what has now happened.
Elsewhere in London, Security Services are investigating a flash-mob gathering targeted by a suicide bomber that left forty-two dead. The two events would appear to be unrelated, but the identities of those involved begin to suggest otherwise. Bad Sam Chapman, David Cartwright’s back-up, back in the day, is now working as a PI, but a man with his Service training knows when he’s being followed. They may be “…exiled to Slough House with the other catastrophes of the intelligence world; sentenced to plough away at a series of unpromising projects with no end in sight…” but when the Slough House crew realise someone is trying to kill Sam, Jackson decides they are “operational”.
Herron gives his characters smart, snappy dialogue; his plot is imaginative but believable, with several twists and turns to keep it interesting; there’s plenty of humour, much of it black, some relying on double meaning or innuendo that will have readers snickering, giggling and laughing out loud. As the fourth instalment of a series, it doubtless contains some spoilers for earlier books, but can easily be read as a stand-alone. But almost certainly, many readers will be seeking out the rest of the series. Clever and original, this is brilliant British spy fiction.
With thanks to Bookstr and Hachette Australia for this copy to read and review.