Monday, January 6, 2014
Review of Dead Lions by Mick Herron (2013, Soho Press)
Dead Lions is a modern day spy story set in London and the home counties. It’s central cast are a handful of misfit intelligence workers who have been reassigned to Slough House for various misdemeanours, some personal (alcoholic, gambler, anger management), some operational (messed up an operation). They are led by the irascible snide, Jackson Lamb, who after years in intelligence knows where all the bodies are buried and how to play the game. The plot has two strands -- the death of a former intelligence agent and the possibility of a deep sleeping network of Russian agents being reactivated, and the potential recruitment of a Russian billionaire by British intelligence -- that Herron carefully intersplices, leading to an exciting dénouement. What separates Dead Lions from other contemporary spy fiction is Herron’s colourful, crafted prose, the use of some interesting narrative devices, such as a cat’s tour of Slough House at the start and a mouse’s at the end, the underlying black humour, and his cast of nonconformist agents. The characterisation is very nicely penned, as are the engagements between characters. The plot is engaging and entertaining, but at times felt a little too fanciful. Dead Lions was a great read and I intend to read the first book in the series, Slow Horses, and to continue to follow the adventures of the Slough House team.