A second anti-terrorist workout for the sorely tried denizens of Finsbury’s Slough House (Slow Horses, 2010).
Successful retirees from MI5 are quietly pensioned off with the tacit thanks of a grateful nation. The less successful ones—the ones who’ve shown themselves unfit because of unsafe personal habits or screw-ups that don’t rise to the level of criminal malfeasance—are packed off to Slough House, a dead-end office from which it’s hoped they’ll take themselves away by resigning from the service once they realize they’re never going to do anything important again. But now the embers of Slough House are stirred by the death of one of its own. Dickie Bow, formerly a street rat in Berlin who’s been following legendary Russian agent Alexander Popov, evidently learned enough for one final text message—“cicadas”—before he died, apparently of a heart attack, on a London bus. Jackson Lamb, the perennially annoyed leader of the Slough House brigade, decides that both Dickie’s death and the cicadas warrant closer examination. Two other Slough House colleagues, Min Harper and his lover, Louise Guy, have meanwhile been seconded as minders for the upcoming visit of oil oligarch Arkady Pashkin. Despite the fact that the Limitations Committee resolutely refuses to acknowledge the dead lions of Slough House, it disburses enough funding to send River Cartwright undercover to the village of Upshott, where he learns some truly alarming things about the cicadas just in time for the explosive climax of Pashkin’s visit.
Herron (Down Cemetery Road, 2009, etc.) provides a dour, twisty spy thriller with something for everyone: part post–Cold War miasma, part James Bond heroics, and elliptical withal.