I reviewed Mick Herron’s London Rules (the fifth book in his Jackson Lamb series) in January. I was quick off the mark in reading the sixth installment, Joe Country, which hit the shelves in June. The Jackson Lamb series has thus far avoided the law of diminishing returns, and I was obviously hoping for this to continue.
As ever there’s at least a couple of plots on the go. Louisa Guy is visited by Min Harper’s widow who wants the (secret) service to find her missing son. Guy, being Harper’s former lover, acquiesces and heads off in pursuit, unaware that said son is being hunted by a gang of ruthless killers. At the same time River Cartwright and other Slough House and Regent’s Park residents are attending the funeral of Cartwright’s grandfather, a service legend. Observing the funeral at a distance is Cartwright’s estranged father (and estranged spook) Frank Harkness, which doesn’t go unnoticed by attendees, not least as Harkness was responsible for the death of one of Lamb’s ‘slow horses’. The slow horses also head off in pursuit of Harkness, unbeknownst that they’re in collision course with Guy. ‘Joe Country’, in Herron’s world, is the place where spies go to die. And this is where our spies end up and not all will make the return visit to the dank, dilapidated environs of Slough House.
The interesting thing about the Lamb series is that it has strength in depth. Herron’s not reliant on any particular character to tell the story, which allows us to get to know each of the slow horses a little better as we go through the series. I found the plot somewhat less believable than on previous outings (despite some of those previous outings being rather far fetched). Nevertheless, that’s a minor quibble as is the fact that ‘Lady’ Di Taverner, now running the show at Regent’s Park, doesn’t feature as much as I would like, meaning a smaller portion of skullduggery. Herron plays things nicely, keeping you on your toes as he holds off bringing our two pursuit teams together. His description of our wintry Joe Country is similarly evinced; you can imagine the whole thing on the big screen, which hopefully isn’t as far fetched as some of the plot lines!
I’d be lying if I said that I enjoyed Joe Country as much as I enjoyed London Rules but it’s all relative; having loved LR, Joe comes highly recommended also.