Book Review: Mick Herron – Dead Lions (Slough House book 2)

  • Originally posted on March 18, 2019

The first novel in the Slough House series, ‘Slow Horses’, was the best book I have read in ages. I decided, very soon after completing the first, to find out whether its sequel was just as good.

Following the dramatic exits in the original, there were now two new slow horses: Marcus Longridge, and Shirley Dander. Both settle into Slough House, both unhappily and brilliantly, exactly how it is meant to be. I hope that they receive more time in the third, ‘Real Tigers’, in particular, Shirley. Why is she with the other no hopers? She stood up for herself against her patriarchal seniors, and revealed her sexuality, which prevented her from being kicked out as it would have looked bad for Regent’s Park. Whether she is gay or not, this could be an intriguing backplot to be explored, although unlike most thrillers, Herron does not typically dwell upon romantic relations between the characters, and refers to them only when it develops the plot and themselves more.

I suspect the three year wait for book two was due to Herron waiting to find a plot which was worthy of the world he had created. There’s a further break before the third was released, before moving annually. I must admit, the first half of this book was somewhat underwhelming. I didn’t see much reason for Jackson Lamb following the death of Dickie Bow, an old Spook from the 1980s who was long out of the game, on account of going missing and reappearing drunk, claiming to have been kidnapped by someone who didn’t actually exist. (in honesty, I don’t see why he did in any case, but it made for a great plot)

Then it speeds up. There is a death in mysterious circumstances, and River Cartwright goes to sleepy Uppshott, where the story begins to kick in. The last 150 pages are great: Herron displays his ability to weave three or four different situations together into one, all while there’s absolute carnage and absurdity surrounding all of them.

I would completely recommend this series: all plots are sorted out by the end. Unlike other authors, he also doesn’t feel the need to write endless prose and go on for 500 pages; Herron gets straight to the point and when the action starts, it doesn’t stop until a hurtling screech five pages from the end. Rather like an action movie, the drama continues until one scene from the end. Other authors should take note. Read this, you won’t regret it.

Slough House Series:

  1. Slow Horses
  2. Dead Lions
  3. Real Tigers
  4. Spook Street
  5. London Rules
  6. Joe Country (released 11 July 2019)

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