Slough House #8

Bad Actors by Mick Herron

Publication Date: May 10, 2022

Summary From NetGalley:

In London’s MI5 headquarters a scandal is brewing that could disgrace the entire intelligence community. The Downing Street superforecaster—a specialist who advises the Prime Minister’s office on how policy is likely to be received by the electorate—has disappeared without a trace. Claude Whelan, who was once head of MI5, has been tasked with tracking her down. 

But the trail leads him straight back to Regent’s Park itself, with First Desk Diana Taverner as chief suspect. Has Taverner overplayed her hand at last? Meanwhile, her Russian counterpart, Moscow intelligence’s First Desk, has cheekily showed up in London and shaken off his escort. Are the two unfortunate events connected?
Over at Slough House, where Jackson Lamb presides over some of MI5’s most embittered demoted agents, the slow horses are doing what they do best, and adding a little bit of chaos to an already unstable situation . . . 

There are bad actors everywhere, and they usually get their comeuppance before the credits roll. But politics is a dirty business, and in a world where lying, cheating and backstabbing are the norm, sometimes the good guys can find themselves outgunned.

ARC provided by Soho Press via NetGalley for an honest review.

Confession:

This is the eighth book in the series, but don’t worry about spoilers. The author does a great job of keeping each story almost a stand alone, but to truly understand the characters and their interactions, as well as their motivations, I do recommend that you start at the beginning of the series. You can see my review for the first book here and for books two and three here. I have read all of the books, but for some reason never wrote reviews for the others, but I still recommend them.

Book seven ended with a cliffhanger for one of the characters, and I am sad to say that that storyline is only mentioned in this book a few times. What happened to him isn’t really revealed until the end and even that was only a vague statement. I hope the next book addresses his story more.

There is a large cast of characters and sometimes it is hard to keep track of them all, but the slow horses are the most memorable ones. Most of them that have survived this far are back and just as clueless yet somehow very smart and getting the job done before MI5 even knows what is happening. This story also shows how they are all dealing with losses and the pandemic as well as other issues.

The story centers around Diana Taverner, who is the first desk at MI5 and Jackson Lamb, head of Slow House. Their relationship is an interesting one, with both of them hating each other, but still willing to work together and have each others backs when necessary. Lamb seemed a bit toned down this time around, not as racist or as misogynistic as usual. As awful as he is though, you have to love him in that he really does care for his crew and what happens to them. I kept getting the feeling that his rough exterior is all an act, so that people won’t take him seriously when they should. Catherine is usually not very likable either, but in a different way. But you find yourself rooting for her in this book.

This book like all of the others, is rooted in current events and political scandals that seem to occur on a regular basis in any country. I like that the Prime Minister and Russia’s President are never mentioned by name, but you know who the characters are talking about anyways. The plot is convoluted and as twisty as spy novels usually are, so you do need to pay close attention. It didn’t help that it starts sort of in the middle of the story and then flashes back to events that happened a few days before and then goes back to the present. But lots of action and some dark humor keep you entertained and wanting to figure out what is really going on before the characters do.

Another wonderful book and a great addition to the series. If you enjoy spy novels that are full of action, quirky characters that you will love even when you don’t like them, then this is a series I recommend you pick up.

I haven’t yet started the new TV show based on this series, but I am looking forward to it. It has a great cast with the wonderful Gary Oldman play Jackson Lamb, a perfect fit!

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