Tag Archives: Joe Country

Review: Joe Country by Mick Herron

Joe CountryThere aren’t really many among the cast of characters in Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb spy thriller series that you would want as a friend. On the whole, they are a bunch of losers. It’s almost always certain that they’ll either let themselves or their colleagues down. Yet, you can’t help but follow their (mis)fortunes with feverish anticipation.

Judging by Herron’s previous books, he has never been reluctant to kill off one of Lamb’s slow horses, as the Regent Park’s spy rejects are called. So when it says on the cover of Herron’s latest that “they’re heading into joe country” but “they’re not all coming home”, and the first chapter ends with two people being dead and Slough House needing “some new slow horses”, you suddenly begin picking favourites and calculating who you could bear to lose as a character. And so, it was with a sense of heavy foreboding that I started reading Joe Country. Until the very end the tension was nerve-wracking.

“Lamb had been given Slough House, and had been squatting here since, a grim overlord to the Service’s washouts”. The latest addition to his stable is Lech Wicinski. Officially, he has committed an unforgivable crime, and since he can’t prove otherwise, his life turns to hell. Meanwhile, the wife of one of the previously killed slow horses reaches out to Louisa Guy for help in finding her missing adolescent son. What at first looks like a straightforward runaway tale turns sinister when an old enemy shows up and once again threatens to spill slow horse blood.

With his wicked humour and masterful suspense build-up, Herron has once again given us an irresistible thriller. Just when you think he can’t get better, he does and makes you care about his Slough House misfits more than you ever bargained for.

Joe Country

by Mick Herron

John Murray, 2019

Review first appeared in the Cape Times on 26 July 2019.

Review: The Drop by Mick Herron

The DropThe sixth Jackson Lamb thriller, Joe Country by Mick Herron, is hitting our bookshelves. The Drop is a novella in the series that only a few months ago introduced a new character into the cast of Regent Park’s drop-outs whiling away the time as “slow horses” in Slough House, where Jackson Lamb rules supreme. Whereas most of them arrive on Lamb’s doorstep after a major screw up in the field, the new addition ends up in the dubious care of the obnoxious Cold War spy through a set of weird coincidences. His fate is sealed after Solomon Dortmund, an old spook, observes an envelope changing hands in a way that stirs all the retired spy’s hard-wired intuitions into action.

“A drop, in spook parlance, is the passing on of secret information. It’s also what happens just before you hit the ground”, the novella’s blurb tells us. What it does not give away is that sometimes it is information which is planted without your awareness that can have the direst consequences for your future. Slough House is a dead end for most.

Before you turn to Joe Country, treat yourself to The Drop, a slim gem that you can devour in one sitting. Herron is the best thing to happen to the spy thriller genre since Graham Greene. Each book in the series can be read independently, but once you start on any of them, you will want to read them all. Characters, plots, crisp writing and especially the humour are irresistible; I’m totally hooked.

The Drop

by Mick Herron

John Murray, 2018

Review first appeared in the Cape Times on 19 July 2019.