cover image London Rules

London Rules

Mick Herron. Soho Crime, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-61695-961-6

British author Herron’s superlative fifth Slough House novel (after 2017’s Spook Street) opens with a terrorist attack in Derbyshire that kills 12. All MI5 resources are looking for the culprits—with the notable exception of the “slow horses,” the spies demoted to London’s Slough House, who suffer from self-doubt and the crushing weight of the abuse of their leader, Jackson Lamb, “a fat bastard you dismissed at your peril.” They are actually pretty competent, and one of them, J.K. Coe, has a powerful insight into the Derbyshire terrorists after a second attack. Meanwhile, someone’s trying to kill hacker Roddy Ho, and Ho’s colleagues want to know who and why. Eventually, the investigation into Ho’s attempted murder converges with the search for the terrorists. The ironic title, an echo of the “Moscow rules” trope of cold war fiction, conjures up the absurdities and intrigues of bureaucracy, espionage, and politics. Herron combines a strong plot with a fine, often comic style as he celebrates the power of community in response to terrorsim. Agent: Juliet Burton, Juliet Burton Literary Agency (U.K.) (June)