Slow Horses

By Mick Herron

Slough House is where British MI5 sends agents who screw up: the ones who leave a disk full of top secret data on the subway, utterly fail a training exercise, drink too much and then discover the boss’s dead body in his apartment, or burn out from a career of stressful missions.

Slough House is effectively an “oubliette where, alongside a pre-digital overflow of paperwork, a post-useful crew of misfits can be stored and left to gather dust.”

Given repetitive, mind-numbing assignments of dubious value, the misfits of Slough House are expected to tire of the tedium and resign — although few do. Their colleagues outside of Slough House have labeled them the “slow horses.”

River Cartwright believes that he was set up to fail an exercise where he was supposed to identify and apprehend a pretend suicide bomber on a subway in the middle of London. He’s the grandson of a famous MI5 agent and dreamed his whole life of working for the agency.  He had no intention of resigning.

When representatives of an alleged conservative extremist group threaten to behead a young Pakistani man live on the internet in 48 hours, the slow horses can’t help puzzling over the problem of finding the young man and preventing the beheading.

This book has all the twists, turns and unexpected revelations of an international spy thriller.

Against impossible odds, using luck and every scrap of their tradecraft, the slow horses grab the opportunity to run an operation on the sly.

Author Mick Herron treats his characters and plot seriously while creating a wonderful tongue-in-cheek thriller. He has a gift for vivid writing and memorable sentences, although he can at times get professorial. His quirky characters are fun to follow.

SLOW HORSES was long-listed for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award in 2010. It  was named as one of the 20 best espionage novels of all time by the Daily Telegraph. Apple TV is creating a series called “Slow Horses,” starring Gary Oldman, Oliva Cooke, Jonathan Pryce, Kirstin Scott Thomas and Jack Lowden. Six episodes will be based on this book and an additional six on Herron’s second book, DEAD LIONS. No word yet about when it will air.

SLOW HORSES (2010) is the first book in a series and was followed by:

  • DEAD LIONS (2013), which won the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel 2013.
  • THE LIST (2013), a novella
  • REAL TIGERS (2016), which won the 2017 Last Laugh Award.
  • SPOOK STREET (2017), which won the 2018 Last Laugh Award and the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award in 2017.
  • LONDON RULES (2018), which won the Capital Crime Best Thriller Award in 2019.
  • THE DROP (2018), a novella known in the U.S. as THE MARYLEBONE DROP.
  • JOE COUNTRY (2019)
  • THE CATCH (2020), a novella.
One of his stand-alone novels, NOBODY WALKS (2015), borrows some characters from the Slough House series.  In terms of story chronology, its action comes after THE LIST and before SPOOK STREET.

The Author: Mick Herron (1963 – )

Mick Herron is a British writer who has two series, the Zöe Boehm detective series and the Slough House series as well as three stand-alone novels: RECONSTRUCTION (2008), NOBODY WALKS (2015) and THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED (2018).

He published his first novel, DOWN CEMETERY ROAD, in 2003. It was the first book in the Zöe Boehm and Sara Tucker series, featuring an Oxford private detective.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, Herron earned a degree in English at Balliol College, Oxford. Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine regularly publishes his short stories, which have been collected in the 2013 book, ALL THE LIVELONG DAY. He lives in Oxford.


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