Those familiar with the spy genre will be familiar with the term ‘Moscow rules‘. The first of the London rules is “cover your arse”. If it weren’t obvious so far, we’re back in Jackson Lamb territory with London Rules, the fifth book in Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb series. And those familiar with this blog will know that this series of books follows the ‘slow horses’ of Slough House, a bunch of MI5 misfits who sit in administrative purgatory under the watchful eye of Cold War veteran and ‘joe’ Jackson Lamb. Lamb’s a wonderful creation, as are his slow horses, and it’s always a joy to start reading another installment, hoping that it will be as good or even better than the last.
London Rules was published in 2018 and you can tell. The book features an embattled Prime Minister; a Boris Johnson cum Nigel Farage figure who’s snapping at the heels of the PM; and Brexit. But there’s no need to worry, the book doesn’t wade through that particular quagmire. The country finds itself under seemingly random acts of terror, and Slough House’s resident IT guru and self-appointed God’s gift to women, Roddy Ho, finds himself in the cross hairs. Bored to death and yearning for something remotely worthwhile doing, the slow horses come to the conclusion that the random acts of terror are nothing as such, and that the attempted assassination of Roddy Ho is somehow linked. As per usual our bunch of ne’er-do-wells find themselves at the centre of things…
Herron does it again with London Rules. In fact I think it’s the best Jackson Lamb book yet. Herron has the ability to keep numerous characters in play at the same time and to develop those characters at the same time. In variety terms this would be one of those performers spinning numerous plates at the same time, only painting them as well. I guess Herron has the luxury that his characters can develop from book to book but still. We get to spend more time with MI5’s newly appointed ‘First Desk’, Claude Whelan, than we did with his predecessor, which also means we get to spend time with the formidable, arch plotter ‘Lady’ Di Taverner, all of which is welcome as is the return of Emma Flyte, as the Service’s head ‘dog’. The time spent with the highest echelons of Regent’s Park (our HQ for MI5) means, I think, that we’re spending a little less time with our Slow Horses but this is fine. I might have disagreed a few books back but because we’ve got history with each of them it’s like that quote, “good friends are like stars; you don’t always see them, but you know they are there.”
At 352 pages, London Rules isn’t short but it’s a real page turner – I read it in just over a weekend. I’d still like to see a Jackson Lamb book set in the past when Lamb was active in the field, or perhaps a book where Lamb’s past comes back to haunt him. But while Herron’s knocking the ball out the park, I don’t mind much at all. Highly recommended.