Book review: Slow Horses by Mick Herron

Friday, January 6, 2017 Permalink

Originally published in 2010, Slow Horses is the first of Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb series about a band of misfits; former spooks who’ve been cast out of MI5 for all sorts of nefarious deeds. The first three books in the series are being re-published prior to the release of the fourth, Spook Street, which comes out in February.

This was my first outing with Herron, Lamb and the slow horses. It was one which got off to a galloping start, slowed a little midway, but cantered past the finish post with great aplomb… readying me for the next race in the series. (See what I did there? #sorrynotsorry)

Book review: Slow Horses by Mick HerronSlow Horses: Jackson Lamb Thriller 1
by Mick Herron
Series: Jackson Lamb #1
Published by Hachette UK
on October 11th 2016
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 1473641101, 9781473641105
Pages: 328

Banished to Slough House from the ranks of achievers at Regent's Park for various crimes of drugs and drunkenness, lechery and failure, politics and betrayal, Jackson Lamb's misfit crew of highly trained joes don't run ops, they push paper.

But not one of them joined the Intelligence Service to be a 'slow horse'.

A boy is kidnapped and held hostage. His beheading is scheduled for live broadcast on the net.

And whatever the instructions of the Service, the slow horses aren't going to just sit quiet and watch . . .

This book very much finished on a high for me, despite (what felt like) a lull midway through so I’m very keen to read more in the series. Particularly because this book focuses on one of the newer arrivals at Slough House, River Cartwright… who’s been shunted off there after a training exercise went very wrong.

I was interested (then) to see these books billed as Jackson Lamb’s series – though he’s the pivotal character at Slough House and it’s his fiefdom – we probably get to know him the least of our main cast.

Having said that, I actually like series which feature ensembles and (although I really liked River, whose grandfather was a well-known player in MI5) I will be interested to see if Herron alternates the focus for each in the series. (Edit: having now read a review of a subsequent book in the series, that seems to be the case!) 

So we’re initially in River’s head and return there often, though the plot unfolds in third person and Herron transfers us to most of the Slough House staff.

I’ve mentioned before that in the 1990s I demolished all of the John Le Carre, Len Deighton, Robert Ludlum and David Morrell spy / espionage novels I could find. It’s not a genre I’ve spent much time on since then, but I very much enjoyed this, particularly the complexity of the characters and the twisted and secretive world of spies and government power-brokers (and their game-playing).

So, although it felt a little like a scene-setting novel in places… laying the groundwork for what’s to come, and I’m keen to see where we’re lead.

Slow Horses by Mick Herron was (re) published in Australia via Hachette and is now available.


  • Stormi D Johnson
    January 6, 2017

    This sounds like it could be an interesting series despite that lull midway in this first book.

    • Debbish
      January 6, 2017

      Oh yes Stormi… I think there was just a bit of time filling us in on who is who perhaps, and I wasn’t sure where the book was going at that point.

  • Jennifer Miron
    January 6, 2017

    Hi Deborah, I happened on this book through the free book of the week in iBooks-and loved it! I’ve also read the sequel to Slow Horses and it’s just as good. Agree with your review and like you love spy thrillers. Have you read The Tourist series with Milo Weaver? I really enjoyed these as well. Cheers, Jen.

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2017

      No I haven’t Jen, I’ll check them out!

  • kimbacaffeinate
    January 7, 2017

    Oh this sounds quite good despite the lull. You have me curious Deborah!

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2017

      Yes Kim, it’s really just that Herron is giving us back stories, so I think that slows it down a little.

I'd love to hear your thoughts