Year 3 / Book 10: Spook Street

10) Spook Street by Mick Herron

A bit of frothy light relief from the author widely heralded as a sort of more sarcastic, humorous up-to-speed Le Carré, this is the fourth in the Slough House series, featuring the curmudgeonly wonderful Jackson Lamb. It’s pretty undemanding but also undeniably entertaining fare, and this one starts with a gut punch with a shocking terrorist incident, followed swiftly by one of the ‘slow horses’ (what the spies in Slough House are called) seemingly being involved in a shooting.

As has become normal in the series, there’s a fair smattering of internal intelligence service politics, the usual mix of misfits under Lamb’s aegis (with some new ingredients), and a fascinating plot with a nod to previous Cold War days. It may well be completely preposterous, but I found it all fairly plausible (at least the internal politics and the misfits who find their way into this line of work). And it’s excellently written – the dry humour fairly drips off the page, and the interplay and dialogue between some of the characters is fabulous; even as the bullets are flying and some fairly brutal acts of violence are taking place.

What Herron has done with seeming effortlessness (though I’m sure there’s plenty of effort involved) is bring the more conventional spy thriller into the modern age: where tech and hacking play as big a role as relationships and networks; where the threats are diverse and unexpected, rather than known and manageable; and where a dark humour and cynicism has replaced a stuffy professional exterior. Though this isn’t perhaps the best in the series, it’s more than enough to make the commute a huge amount more enjoyable – and I’ll certainly be getting to the fifth episode when it comes out in paperback.

Score: 7/10

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