cover image Joe Country

Joe Country

Mick Herron. Soho Crime, $26.95 (360p) ISBN 978-1-64129-055-5

Herron’s enjoyable sixth Slough House novel (after 2018’s London Rules) offers a jaundiced look at espionage in the Brexit age. Jackson Lamb is in charge of Slough House, the decrepit London building where MI5 operatives end up because of a botched mission, alcohol abuse, or simply stepping on the wrong toes. At one point, Lamb tells his crew of misfits: “You lot keep your heads down, do what you’re told, and quietly die of boredom, and everyone’s happy as an Oxfam worker at a sex party. But start making waves and there are shit storms waiting to happen.” Lamb is proven right when Louisa Guy, one of his staff, is contacted by Clare, the widow of Min Harper, Louisa’s former colleague and lover. Clare asks Louisa to find her missing 17-year-old son, Lucas. This simple task turns into a deadly game of blackmail, treachery, and spy vs. spy, played out in the freezing Welsh countryside. Droll dialogue, characters who wear their foibles proudly, and observations on the politics of potential vested interest in national security keep the pages turning. Herron solidifies his place as one of Britain’s top spy novelists. Agent: Juliet Burton, Juliet Burton Literary. (U.K.) (June)