DEAD LIONS by Mick Herron

Soho Crime
May 7th, 2013

The Slough House in London is where the MI5 screw-ups—or the “slow horses”—of the spy world are sent to ride out the rest of their careers. The agency hopes that by sending them into obscurity to push around papers they will soon quit from the boredom. They are all there for different reasons—drinking, screwing up an operation, standing in someone’s ladder-climbing way—but what they all have in common is that they want back into the action.

When a low-level MI5 operative from the Cold War days is found dead on a bus of a supposed heart attack, Jackson Lamb, head of the slow horses, decides to poke around a bit for old time’s sake. Lamb and Dickie Bow, the dead operative, used to work together in Berlin. Lamb suspects that Bow was in fact murdered, and the killer seems to be leaving a deliberate trail for Lamb to follow. Lamb begins to unravel a case involving KGB agents, sleeper cells and good old-fashioned espionage, giving the slow horses a chance to pull together and do more than just the filing.
Herron moves point-of-view quickly between characters, which can take a chapter or two to get used to, but it is certainly worth the effort. DEAD LIONS is an original take on the spy story, and has you rooting for the slow horses despite their many quirks—or maybe because of them. Herron is a pro at creating suspense and driving the reader headlong through the many twists and turns of the plot.

Erica Ruth Neubauer