Almost every character in these books are spies, even the bad guys. I am really enjoying this series. Each book is its own story, so you could almost pick this series up at any book. However I do recommend that you start at the beginning. The first book sets up the rest of the books nicely. So don’t worry about spoilers for the first book, Slow Horses, you won’t find any here.
These books are not fast paced and action packed though, so they do read a little slower than other spy thrillers, but they are filled with interesting characters and a plot that will keep you guessing until the end. Plus they are filled with that wonderful dry humor that I always find most amusing.
Dead Lions (Slough House #2) by Mick Herron
Publication Date: May 2013
“When he’d finished, he produced an unbranded packet of cigarettes: stubby, filterless, lethal. A health warning would have been like subtitles on a porn film. Utterly beside the point.”
This second book was just as gripping and thrilling as the first.
The cast from the first book was all here, plus a couple of new ones. River wasn’t as front and center as he was in the last book, but he still played a central role. The two newest members of the Slough House team were nice additions. I really liked Marcus Longbridge, who despite being sent to Slough House has some mad skills. I’m reserving judgement on Shirley Dander for now, she was certainly an interesting character though. Min Harper and Louisa Guy took a bigger role in this story than the last, which I enjoyed seeing. I liked these two a lot. Roderick Ho certainly stepped up despite all of his grumbling.
The plot of this one was intriguing with a Russian sleeper agent wrecking havoc. But the long game of the plot was not at all what I was expecting. The pacing is not fast, but steadily moves along to the end. The constant change of perspectives does take a bit getting used to, and you can sometimes get a little lost in it, but it does work for this book and for the story. There is a large cast of characters and almost all of them have a least a few pages from their point of view.
Real Tigers by Mick Herron
Publication date: January 2016
“Conspiracy theorists, she knew, were paranoid by definition, and usually with good reason – they were indeed being watched, largely because they were standing on an upturned bucket, haranguing the sheeple about their wingnut delusions.”
So many conspiracies with so many different levels in this one, that it was hard at times to keep them all straight. This one was a bit of a nail biter, as I wasn’t sure which of the slow horses would survive the final scene. Or the aftermath for that matter. But it did all work out and with quite the ending scene to boot.
River and Louise team up for a bit in this one, and I really liked them together. I was a bit worried for Louise after the last book, but she is holding up well given the circumstances. Both Marcus and Shirley have stepped up and really come through in the end. Rodrick Ho is still a bit of a puzzle, he is a computer genius, and he has such poor social skills but also with a highly idealized concept of his self worth, that you almost feet sorry for him, especially in this book. He is one of the least likable, likable characters you will ever meet.
Jackson Lamb, the head of slow house, is also a hard character to like. He is crass, rude, misogynistic and often makes racist remarks to the other characters. But on the plus side, he would never leave any of them to hang if they got into a rough spot. He will defend them and go to any lengths to protect them, even while making disparaging remarks about them. He is a bit hard to take, but you have to admire how he gets shit done, especially when it has hit the fan.
I am not sure if I am getting used to the writing style, or if something has really changed in this book, but I found it to have a much faster pace and a little bit less of the flowery prose that often confused me. I still have to look up a word or phrase now and then, when there is something used that it very British or a spy term I’m not familiar with, and I can’t work it out on my own. But I find that kind of fun. But the dry humor and the complex plots have continued to keep me very entertained.
Although I do recommend this series, I will warn you that it probably isn’t for everyone. You have to keep your focus while reading, mostly because of the constant change of perspectives, but also because of the style of writing. But if you like well written suspense stories about a bunch of supposedly has been spies, who are quirky but yet somehow endearing, who end up saving themselves and possibly England time and time again, then certainly give this a chance.