Book review: London Rules by Mick Herron

Friday, February 16, 2018 Permalink

You may think I’ve been remiss in my book reviewing of late, however I’ve got you all fooled. Or something.

London Rules by Mick Herron arrived several weeks ago. It’s the fifth book in the series known as (either) the Slough House or Jackson Lamb series… featuring the MI5 outcasts (the slow horses).

The former being the location of the rather decrepit office space the ‘slow horses’ inhabit; the latter being the boss – the very slovenly, farty, pretty despicable but smart and surprisingly agile Jackson Lamb.

I’d only read the first in the series, Slow Horses but another book friend suggested I read the rest of the series before embarking on London Rules and fortuitously I received an email offering me electronic review copies of the three I’d missed so I downloaded and binged on all three last week.

I LOVED no. 2, Dead Lions; enjoyed but wasn’t AS enamoured by no. 3 Real Tigers; but very much enjoyed no. 4, Spook Street. (And the links on each title take you to my review in Goodreads… so I haven’t entirely been slacking off on the reviewing-front!)

Which brings me to number 5, London Rules.

Book review: London Rules by Mick HerronLondon Rules
by Mick Herron
Series: Jackson Lamb #5, Slough House #5
Published by Hachette Australia
on February 13th 2018
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 9781473657380
Pages: 352

London Rules might not be written down, but everyone knows rule one.

Cover your arse.

Regent's Park's First Desk, Claude Whelan, is learning this the hard way. Tasked with protecting a beleaguered Prime Minister, he's facing attack from all directions himself: from the showboating MP who orchestrated the Brexit vote, and now has his sights set on Number Ten; from the showboat's wife, a tabloid columnist, who's crucifying Whelan in print; from the PM's favourite Muslim, who's about to be elected mayor of the West Midlands, despite the dark secret he's hiding; and especially from his own deputy, Lady Di Taverner, who's alert for Claude's every stumble.

Meanwhile, the country's being rocked by an apparently random string of terror attacks, and someone's trying to kill Roddy Ho.

Over at Slough House, the crew are struggling with personal problems: repressed grief, various addictions, retail paralysis, and the nagging suspicion that their newest colleague is a psychopath. But collectively, they're about to rediscover their greatest strength - that of making a bad situation much, much worse.

It's a good job Jackson Lamb knows the rules. Because those things aren't going to break themselves.

I’ve talked in my Goodreads reviews of the brilliant way Herron has of opening the books by inserting us into the narrative via some unseen voice: a cat / mouse; a spirit… and here it’s dawn and dusk. And I’d actually love to include the first few pages of the first chapter here if it wasn’t a huge breach of copyright. It’s brilliant and clever and breathtaking. Here’s a snippet to whet your appetite…

In some parts of the world dawn arrives with rosy fingers, to smooth away the creases left by night. But on Aldersgate Street, in the London borough of Finsbury, it comes wearing safe-cracker’s gloves, so as not to leave prints on windowsills and doorknobs; it squints through keyholes, sizes up locks, and generally cases the joint ahead of approaching day. Dawn specialises in unswept corners and undusted surfaces, in the nooks and chambers day rarely sees, because day is all business appointments and things being in the right place, while its younger sister’s role is to creep about in the breaking gloom, never sure of what it might find there. It’s one thing casting light on a subject. It’s another expecting it to shine. p7

We’ve not got any new characters introduced here, but get to know some of the newer ones better, including a couple of the ‘Dogs’… MI5’s internal police force if you like. And this time around, one of the Slough House ‘slow horses’ is again at the centre of the unfolding tale as it seems the incredibly irksome (though mostly-harmless) IT black / white-hat Roddy Ho has been added to someone’s hit list.

There’s more to it of course and the slow horses are again called to action; and in the background, we’re privy to the political games at the top of MI5, the Home Office and PM.

I really enjoyed this book. It felt as if we got beneath the skin of some of our team more than usual. The plot is still strong, but it seemed more character-driven. Shirley Dander has finished her Anger (Fucking) Management sessions and contemplating the cocaine in her pocket in celebration; River Cartwright is wondering how much longer he can twiddle this thumbs as his skills deteriorate and his mind numbs.

I read this in a sitting and – beware – the end is a bit shocking. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve learned that Herron takes no prisoners when it comes to killing off beloved team members. (And those who’ve read Spook Street will know I kinda mean that literally!) They come and they go….

Speaking of which, I may need to re-read the ending because I just want to recheck Herron’s brilliant prose and where we’re left…. maybe it’s more equivocal than I remember!

London Rules by Mick Herron was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.



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