A sixth round of troubles for the slow horses of Slough House, where burned-out, compromised, or incompetent members of Her Majesty’s intelligence community have been banished (Spook Street, 2017, etc.), pits them against a group of terrorists who seem to be working from MI5’s own playbook.
It doesn’t usually make headlines when a crew of uniformed men efficiently murder a dozen inhabitants of an isolated village, but when the target is Abbotsfield, in the shadow of the Derbyshire hills, attention must be paid. The time-servers at Slough House, the last group anyone in the know would expect to get anywhere near this outrage, are roped into it when Shirley Dander celebrates her 62nd drug-free day by saving her colleague Roderick Ho from getting run down by a car. Flatulent Jackson Lamb, the head of the troops at Slough House, doesn’t believe Shirley’s story of attempted vehicular homicide, but even he changes his tune after a second attempt on Ho’s life kills an intruder whose corpse promptly disappears and police match the bullets found at the scene to one of the weapons used in the Abbotsfield massacre. When someone tosses a bomb into the penguin shelter in Dobsey Park and a second bomb is disabled before it can blow up a Paddington-bound train, alarm bells go off for J.K. Coe, the newest arrival to Slough House, who realizes (1) these outrages are all being perpetrated by the same team, (2) they’re following a blueprint originally conceived by the intelligence community, and (3) they still have several escalating chapters left to go. Just in case this all sounds uncomfortably menacing, a subplot concerning the threats posed to the nation’s security by a cross-dressing Brexit partisan is uncomfortably comical.
Herron shows once again that the United Kingdom’s intelligence community is every bit as dysfunctional and alarmingly funny as Bill James’ cops and robbers.