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This is the second Jackson Lamb thriller, set in the world of MI5 and espionage. In truth, Lamb is just the head of an ensemble cast, each of whom has their own role to play in these novels.

Lamb’s team are affectionately nicknamed Slow Horses by the powers that be at MI5. Partly because it’s a play on the name of the building called Slough House where they work, and partly it’s because they are all considered subpar – for differing reasons – and are put into this team to quietly spend the remainder of their career carrying out mundane and unimportant tasks, being no trouble to anyone or anything.

However, Lamb is not as acquiescent as they would like, and cannot resist when he gets a sniff of a mystery. When he hears that a former colleague and spy, named Dickie Bow (really!) has died, he thinks there is more to it and this sets him and his team on a trail leading back to the Cold War.

I’m not sure what it is about these novels that I enjoy so much. I generally do not like spy novels because they almost always seem to have unnecessarily convoluted plots and it’s not a genre that interests me. However, Mick Herron’s writing is such a pleasure to read, and his characters are all so real and believable, that I thoroughly enjoyed this book as well as it’s predecessor Slow Horses, which is the first in the series.

It is a fairly complicated story with lots of strands, but they are all explained well without patronising the reader. The characters, including the overweight, chain smoking, heavy drinking, farting belching and insulting Jackson Lamb are a pleasure to spend time with, and there are a few big surprises along the way.

Although you don’t need to have read Slow Horses to understand and enjoy this book, I would recommend it as it gives background to some of the characters on the team. As for myself, I look forward to reading the next ones in the series.

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