Slow Horses by Mick Herron

In the British Secret Service, there are those who play the field brilliantly.  Some end their run quietly after a full career; others blunder early and get sentslow horses to Slough House.

Slough House is a dead-end of a place, a warren of offices above a Chinese takeaway somewhere in London.  Within, misguided and mistaken former agents spend their working hours doing meaningless tasks – deciphering garbled cellphone recordings or sifting through trash bags.  This is their atonement for bungled operations.

River Cartwright is one of the proud, the few, the screwups here – what others in the Service call Slow Horses, in a pun-like nod to their place of work.  Not yet thirty, and still antsy for more fulfilling work, River gets his chance when Internet footage of an abducted young man surfaces, with the threat of decapitation from his captors.  Will the Slow Horses play a part in his rescue, and as such, redeem themselves?

This motley group is hardly set up for an operation, but off they go, led (or nudged, we might say) by their fearless leader, Jackson Lamb, who in his shambling fashion, proves his mettle with the big guns.  Unfortunately, there are some folks who would prefer the Slow Horses disappear altogether.

At first, this book was a hard one to get into; the points of view switch fairly rapidly, and the lingo is very British.  However – persevere, and the sharp wit of the book and the characters will start to grow on you.  The author is quite good at keeping you guessing.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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