Slow Horses – MI5 Spy Thriller Book Review

Now an Apple Original series streaming on Apple TV+ starring Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas. Welcome to the thrilling and unnervingly prescient world of the slow horses. This team of MI5 agents is united by one common bond: They’ve screwed up royally and will do anything to redeem themselves. This special tenth-anniversary deluxe edition of a modern classic includes a foreword by the author, discussion questions for book clubs, and an exclusive short story featuring the slow horses. London, England: Slough House is where washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what’s left of their failed careers. The “slow horses,” as they’re called, have all disgraced themselves in some way to get relegated there. Maybe they botched an Op so badly they can’t be trusted anymore. Maybe they got in the way of an ambitious colleague and had the rug yanked out from under them. Maybe they just got too dependent on the bottle—not unusual in this line of work. One thing they have in common, though, is they want to be back in the action. And most of them would do anything to get there─even if it means having to collaborate with one another. When a young man is abducted and his kidnappers threaten to broadcast his beheading live on the Internet, the slow horses see an opportunity to redeem themselves. But is the victim really who he appears to be? Check Price

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Customer Reviews:

  • Pros:
    • Engaging and well-crafted plot
    • Interesting and dysfunctional group of characters
    • Smart, funny, and complicated storytelling
  • Cons:
    • Writing style may be difficult to follow at times
    • Lengthy background details may slow down the story
    • Some contemporary English cultural references may not be universally understood

Slough House—Slough rhymes with cow—is where Britain’s MI5 sends intelligence officers it doesn’t want but won’t fire, in hope that the sheer drudgery of their assignments, combined with the dreadfulness of their boss, will lead those agents to quit. Some do. The ones who stick around are called “slow horses,” hence the title of this book. Slow Horses opens with MI5 officer River Cartwright tracking a suspected terrorist through King’s Cross, one of Lond’s major railway stations. Unfortunately, the terrorist detonates a suicide vest before he can be apprehended, killing scores and causing millions in damage, billions in lost tourism revenue. Just not in reality. The entire episode was a training episode taking place at King’s Cross. Yes, thousands of commuters were actually evacuated from the station, but other than that, no harm, no foul—except that Cartwright gets sent down to Slough House for crashing King’s Cross. There, we might other denizens of this realm, which is governed by the rude, crude Cold War spymaster Jackson Lamb, who inherited his dominion for reasons that become clear only later in the novel. The plot of Slow Horses centers on the kidnapping of a British subject, though by whom and for what reason is not immediately apparent. All that is known is that the kidnappers will decapitate him in 48 hours. Everyone naturally expects Muslim terrorists. But here’s the thing: the victim is Muslim, but the terrorists are not. With everyone’s assumptions turned upside down, MI5 has the job of finding the victim before the kidnappers separate his head from his shoulders. Then Slough House gets dragged into the mess in more ways than one, putting them in the crosshairs. The only solution? The slow horses need to outrace the Park—that is, Regent’s Park, where MI5 is headquartered—before they get stabbed in the back. Slow Horses is the first in a series of novels by Mick Herron that focus on Slough House. It is a brilliant introduction to the characters and the series, and its plots are filled with enough twists to induce motion sickness. It’s a page-turner that keeps you in suspense to the end, marveling at the depths of deception spies are capable of. The dialogue is razor sharp. And the characters—especially Jackson Lamb—are sharply and hilariously drawn. So, five stars from me. Read this book, then keep reading the entire series!

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