[Book two of the Slough House series]
So, this is fun read. Simple as. It’s not a classic (by any stretch of the imagine), and it wouldn’t even be among the first dozen spy thrillers that I’d recommend to fans of that genre. It’s more the sort of book that would pass a happy afternoon, if you’ve enjoyed novels of a similar style in the past.
Mick Herron deserves a little nod. I’m not overly familiar with his writing, beyond the two books I’ve read, but he seems to know his business, builds his plots in a consistent fashion, and gives his target genre audience what they want.
What’s good about the book. Well, the answer to that is simple: Jackson Lamb. You can read the blurb for this book elsewhere (in short: a hopeless band of misfits makes good, against the odds), but the only thing you really need to hear about is the leader of the Slough House cadre.
He’s just a really good character, the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s obese, offensive, smelly, heavy smoking, and a border-line drunk. More importantly though, he knows something you don’t, and there is real skill in Mick Herron’s writing because, despite all of the obvious triggers (which make you believe, that as the leader of the fools, he is nothing more than the most foolish of all), you immediately and throughout buy into the belief that Jackson Lamb is always two-steps ahead of you, and three-steps ahead of the plot.
The problem with the book is that the rest of the characters just don’t feel real. For the most part they’re a caricature of the various types of losers you come across in corporate/office environment (I can’t speak for the world of Spy’s), and because of that you just don’t seem to register a personal connection with them.
When I read the initial book in the series (Slow Horses) I was left with the same feeling; loved Jackson Lamb but found the rest of the cast disappointing and the plot very much off the rack. I hoped that as the series progressed the other characters would come into sharper focus, and maybe they will (this is only the second of several instalments), it just didn’t happen with Dead Lions.
Would I recommend Dead Lions? Well, to fans of the genre, definitely. It has all the little twists and turns that you want form a Spy novel, the plot starts fast and runs hot, and it ticks all the boxes that make these sort of books worthwhile.
To cross-genre readers though, I’m not sure I pass on my copy of Dead Lions (I can just think of to many better books to spend your time on), and it’s certainly not a read I would encourage someone to take a chance on.
For myself – I enjoyed it, it passed pleasant a afternoon/evening and I honestly wouldn’t be shocked to learn that Jackson Lamb had stepped off the page and into TV Show or Movie. He’s the sort of man/character that would own a box-set.
[I mentioned above that I read the first book in the series a while back. If it’s worth anything to you, had I written review of Slow Horses, it would be very much like the above, with just the name of the title changed.]