Dead Lions by Mick Herron

The Blurb On The Back:

Dickie Bow is not an obvious target for assassination. 

But once a spook, always a spook.  And Dickie was a talented streetwalker back in the day, before he turned up dead on a bus.  A shadow.  Good at following people, bringing home their secrets.

Dickie was in Berlin with Jackson Lamb.  Now Lamb’s got his phone, and on it the last secret Dickie ever told, and reason to believe an old-time Moscow-style op is being run in the Service’s back yard.

In the Intelligence Service purgatory that is Slough House, Jackson Lamb’s crew of back-office no-hopers is about to go live … 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s several months after SLOW HORSES and River Cartwright had hoped that he would, if not, be back at Regent’s Park, at least be doing more ops.  Instead he’s still chained to his desk, following up paper trails that no one’s interested in. At least Min Harper and Louisa Gay are out doing something.  ‘Spider’ Webb has got them carrying out a babysitting exercise on Arkady Pashkin, a Russian energy oligarch with political aspirations keen to do a deal with London.

Meanwhile Jackson Lamb is looking into the death of Dickie Bow (an agent he worked with in Berlin) who died of a heart attack on a bus in Oxford.  Bow was a shadow – an expert at tailing people – and Lamb knows that he would never have strayed from his London home without good reason.  And there on Bow’s phone hidden under the seat where he died, Lamb discovers a clue to a myth, a legend that no one in the Service has ever really believed because it’s just too crazy to be true.  Isn’t it?

The second in Mick Herron’s JACKSON LAMB SERIES is another fast-paced, twisting spy thriller with Cold War roots, a dark sense of humour, sassy one-liners and a cheerful willingness to kill characters just as you’re starting to love them.  What makes this series stand out is the way Herron brings his different plot strands together in a fluid way that combines Cold War paranoia with modern worries and motivations to keep the reader hooked.  I love the machinations of Lady Di Taverner and Lamb’s ability to counter them, River’s relationship with the O.B. (who injects the Cold War history but only gives information up to a point) and I also enjoyed the way that the Slough House team is slowly coming together and Catherine’s role in achieving that (with Catherine rapidly becoming my favourite character by being the calm, ordered counterpoint to Lamb’s offensive chaos).  The two newcomers – Shirley Dander and Marcus Longridge – have promise and Ho’s more stereotypical attributes are slowly softening.  Herron is brutal with his character deaths and I was very surprised by the ones in this book and am intrigued to see the effects in the future books.  I still think Lamb’s personal habits are overdone but that’s the only bum note (no pun intended) in the book and I will definitely read the next in this series.

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