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'We're spies,' said Lamb. 'All kinds of outlandish shit goes on.' Like the ringing of a dead man's phone, or an unwelcome guest at a funeral . . . In Slough House memories are stirring, all of them bad. Catherine Standish is buying booze again, Louisa Guy is raking over the ashes of lost love, and new recruit Lech Wicinski, whose sins make him outcast even among the slow hor 'We're spies,' said Lamb. 'All kinds of outlandish shit goes on.' Like the ringing of a dead man's phone, or an unwelcome guest at a funeral . . . In Slough House memories are stirring, all of them bad. Catherine Standish is buying booze again, Louisa Guy is raking over the ashes of lost love, and new recruit Lech Wicinski, whose sins make him outcast even among the slow horses, is determined to discover who destroyed his career, even if he tears his life apart in the process. Meanwhile, in Regent's Park, Diana Taverner's tenure as First Desk is running into difficulties. If she's going to make the Service fit for purpose, she might have to make deals with a familiar old devil . . . And with winter taking its grip Jackson Lamb would sooner be left brooding in peace, but even he can't ignore the dried blood on his carpets. So when the man responsible breaks cover at last, Lamb sends the slow horses out to even the score. This time, they're heading into joe country. And they're not all coming home.


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'We're spies,' said Lamb. 'All kinds of outlandish shit goes on.' Like the ringing of a dead man's phone, or an unwelcome guest at a funeral . . . In Slough House memories are stirring, all of them bad. Catherine Standish is buying booze again, Louisa Guy is raking over the ashes of lost love, and new recruit Lech Wicinski, whose sins make him outcast even among the slow hor 'We're spies,' said Lamb. 'All kinds of outlandish shit goes on.' Like the ringing of a dead man's phone, or an unwelcome guest at a funeral . . . In Slough House memories are stirring, all of them bad. Catherine Standish is buying booze again, Louisa Guy is raking over the ashes of lost love, and new recruit Lech Wicinski, whose sins make him outcast even among the slow horses, is determined to discover who destroyed his career, even if he tears his life apart in the process. Meanwhile, in Regent's Park, Diana Taverner's tenure as First Desk is running into difficulties. If she's going to make the Service fit for purpose, she might have to make deals with a familiar old devil . . . And with winter taking its grip Jackson Lamb would sooner be left brooding in peace, but even he can't ignore the dried blood on his carpets. So when the man responsible breaks cover at last, Lamb sends the slow horses out to even the score. This time, they're heading into joe country. And they're not all coming home.

30 review for Joe Country

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    Mick Herron is a splendid writer when it comes to his out of luck spies, the dregs of the world of espionage, the bunch of losers that are the slow horses, consigned to Slough House, the repository of the intelligence services ghosts and failures. This is a corker of a series, bulging with black humour and comic wit, Herron skewers with aplomb the joke that is the political establishment, with his barely disguised depictions of certain British politicians and their antics. You know right from th Mick Herron is a splendid writer when it comes to his out of luck spies, the dregs of the world of espionage, the bunch of losers that are the slow horses, consigned to Slough House, the repository of the intelligence services ghosts and failures. This is a corker of a series, bulging with black humour and comic wit, Herron skewers with aplomb the joke that is the political establishment, with his barely disguised depictions of certain British politicians and their antics. You know right from the beginning that some of the slow horses are not going to make it out alive. This had me frantically trying to work out who, as I raced through, tense and afraid, for the slow horses have earned a special place in my heart. For those of you that have read the novella, The Drop, you will be aware that there is a new shell shocked slow horse, Lech Wicinski, whose 'crime' is considered to be way beyond the pale by all the others. Goaded by the complex monstrosity that is Jackson Lamb, the head of Slough House, it takes Wicinski only his first meeting with Lamb to realise that his new boss's thought processes would be terra incognita to the psychiatric profession. It was only a matter of time before the perfidious and ambitious Lady Di Taverner was going to get, by hook or by crook, the position of First Desk at Regent's Park. She has her eyes on eliminating Emma Flyte, with plans of disposing of her into Slough House, it's a positive joy to have Emma tell her what she can do with that idea as she quits. River's grandfather, David Cartwright, is now dead, his funeral at the Spook's Chapel in Hampstead, where River's hated father, Frank Harkness, ex-CIA, now a mercenary, shows his unwanted face. Harkness was behind the death of a slow horse, there are scores to settle, and Lamb is not a man who forgives or forgets such a heinous act committed against one of his own joes. Louisa is still grieving the loss of Min Harper, and his wife, Clare, contacts her over the disappearance of her 17 year old son, Lucas. With the help of Roddy Ho and Emma, Louisa heads to Pembrokeshire in Wales in search of the missing boy. Fearing for Louisa, and becoming aware that Harkness and 3 other European mercenaries are in Wales too, Lamb dispatches a team of slow horses on a dangerous mission into Joe country in the most inclement of snowy and freezing weather. This is another unforgettable addition to this stellar series which sees the return of the ghastly former home secretary, Peter Judd, up to no good as usual, demanding the attention of Lady Di. Lech cannot let the horror that has befallen him go, and Slough House ends up with even more ghosts to deal with. Lamb plays his cards close to his chest, engaging in machinations that underline just how much of an error of judgement it would be to write him off, and the perils of underestimating him. I did have worries about his health, he is Herron's genius creation, in all his glorious horror, the undisputed star of this series. I approach every new addition to this series with a great sense of anticipation and joy, it is so wonderfully entertaining and smart with a memorable set of characters, great plotlines, and so hilariously comic amidst the darkness of the rising body count and carnage. If you have yet to acquaint yourself with this series, start at the beginning, you are in for such a treat. Highly recommended. Many thanks to John Murray Press for an ARC.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    Uh…good evening, officer. What? the neighbours heard screaming? Oh sorry, see I just got my hands on the latest Mick Herron. My bad. C’mon, I can’t be the only one celebrating. This is one of my all time favourite series, an annual no-brainer purchase. Last year Herron gave us a shortie called The Drop & that story line plus a couple of the characters are woven into this outing. It all begins with a prologue that will have fans on edge. There are bodies in a barn in Wales. And rumour has it some a Uh…good evening, officer. What? the neighbours heard screaming? Oh sorry, see I just got my hands on the latest Mick Herron. My bad. C’mon, I can’t be the only one celebrating. This is one of my all time favourite series, an annual no-brainer purchase. Last year Herron gave us a shortie called The Drop & that story line plus a couple of the characters are woven into this outing. It all begins with a prologue that will have fans on edge. There are bodies in a barn in Wales. And rumour has it some agents from Slough House were involved. Hold that thought. You’re about to find out how some Slow Horses ended up dashing through the snow in the Welsh countryside. As usual there are multiple story lines on the go. River Cartwright is finally burying his grandfather. The old spook’s funeral is a solemn & covert affair. Right up until….well, let me just point out Jackson Lamb & his crew are in attendance. Did you really expect normal? Louisa Guy is still mourning the death of fellow agent Min Harper. They had a relationship of sorts so when Min’s widow gets in touch to request they meet, Louisa’s not sure it’s a good idea. It seems their teenage son Lucas is missing & Min’s wife thinks the least Louisa can do is find him. Eventually she agrees & uses her contacts to track him to…Wales? Meanwhile over in Regents Part, Diana Taverner has a problem. Hannah Weiss is a double agent who infiltrated the German intelligence service for MI6. Not so long ago, things got a little messy & Lady Di cleaned up by “promoting” Lech Wicinski, a low level agent who got stuck in the middle. Yep, he now reports to Jackson Lamb. Even worse, he shares an office with Roddy Ho. Yeesh, talk about kicking someone when they’re down. All Lech can do is find those responsible for his spectacular fall from grace. As for Lamb, he’d have been happy to continue spending his days devising new ways to offend his merry band of misfits. But events at the funeral put that on hold. He’s finally got a chance for revenge on an old foe & some off-the-books digging reveals his prey is in….Wales? Huh. Must be getting a bit crowded over there. Once again I tried to slowly dole out the chapters & once again I failed. For me, these books are like potato chips. It’s impossible to have a little taste then put them away. After the prologue, this one slows down as the author sets the stage for everything to come. I love the way he makes Slough House another living, breathing character that quietly observes the poor souls who trudge through its door every day. There are many strands to the plot & he keeps them running smoothly until they inevitably intersect. Along the way you’re treated to action, intrigue, twists & laughs. No one does dry black humour quite like Herron & I’ve learned my lesson about reading his books in public. But on the upside, it turns out snorting & grinning like a loon ensures you get a seat to yourself on the train. Beneath the humour & zany antics are serious moments of grief & loss. This is an author who doesn’t shy away from killing off a beloved character & the tradition continues here. The ending makes it clear there’s a conspiracy in the works, one even Lamb may not survive. And so the wait for the next one begins & I swear I’ll read it slowly (sure). 4.5 stars

  3. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

    This was a good one. In fact it was a REALLY good one! Six books in and the Slow Horses are still such good value. It helped of course that River Cartwright featured heavily in the main story and he has been one of my favourite characters since the start of the series. Jackson Lamb plays his usual dark yet funny role, Catherine is engaged in very odd behaviour for an alcoholic, and the 'new boy', Lech, suffers in a really shocking way. Mick Herron writes beautifully and his treatment of the Britis This was a good one. In fact it was a REALLY good one! Six books in and the Slow Horses are still such good value. It helped of course that River Cartwright featured heavily in the main story and he has been one of my favourite characters since the start of the series. Jackson Lamb plays his usual dark yet funny role, Catherine is engaged in very odd behaviour for an alcoholic, and the 'new boy', Lech, suffers in a really shocking way. Mick Herron writes beautifully and his treatment of the British political situation is hilarious, as is the way he deals with the Secret Service. Joe Country also had an edge of real tension throughout as we knew from the beginning that two 'joes' were going to die. The scary part was which two? I went back and read the prologue twice to see if I could find more clues but I had to wait until the end of the book for my answer. Please Mr. Herron - let Lamb get better, let Diana Taverner come to a really sticky end and please keep writing these books!

  4. 4 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    5★ “‘Oh, we’re on the side of the angels, Oliver. You just have to remember that angels do God’s dirty work.’” Joe Country. (Spook Country) Where Jackson Lamb’s joes are, doing the dirty work. They are the Slow Horses of Slough House, the downwardly mobile from Regent’s Park “which was not, as the crow flies, a huge distance from Slough House, but by any other metaphor was a lifetime away. The Park was the Service’s headquarters; it was where baby spooks learned their ABCs, and where flyaway spook 5★ “‘Oh, we’re on the side of the angels, Oliver. You just have to remember that angels do God’s dirty work.’” Joe Country. (Spook Country) Where Jackson Lamb’s joes are, doing the dirty work. They are the Slow Horses of Slough House, the downwardly mobile from Regent’s Park “which was not, as the crow flies, a huge distance from Slough House, but by any other metaphor was a lifetime away. The Park was the Service’s headquarters; it was where baby spooks learned their ABCs, and where flyaway spooks returned, once their missions were complete. It was where you didn’t get to visit if you’d been exiled to Slough House. Once that had happened, it might as well be Oz: ruby slippers not included.” I love this series. (This is the sixth.) We have some of the same Slow Horses (you win some, you lose some), and the author is very good at referring to the previous stories without actually giving any plot points away. So if you choose to read this one first, it won’t actually spoil an earlier book if you want to go back and read them (which I recommend!) So on to this latest. His joes may be temperamental misfits or irritating cokeheads, but they are his joes, and when someone staged a bloody attack inside the stained and mouldering walls of Slough House not long ago, Jackson Lamb is out for their blood in return. “Lamb had enjoyed all sorts of reputations, each of them circling one fixed point: you didn’t f**k with his joes.” Lamb is the most slovenly, socially reprehensible, personally disgusting human being I’ve run across for a while. He’s also the smartest person in the room and not someone you’d want to cross. Herron delights in painting Lamb’s portrait from every possible angle, including with his smelly feet in holey socks up on the desk with his backside positioned towards his gathered crew as he lines up to let one rip. THAT kind of disgusting. And you can’t avoid him. If you’ve been relegated to Slough House, in the hopes that you’ll resign so they don’t have to sack you and explain why (which Regent’s Park can’t explain, because it’s all classified, after all), then you might as well stick it out – it’s a paying job. As someone said: “But this was Slough House, where Jackson Lamb made the rules, and provided you didn’t hide his lunch or steal his whisky, you could get away with murder. There’d been at least four corpses within these walls she knew of, and she didn’t work weekends.” The Slow Horses are supposed to be just counting traffic tickets, and comparing electricity bills with the number of residents, and idle make-work projects like that, pretending to look for odd safe houses. But every now and then, Herron finds an excuse to cut Lamb and his joes loose and send them out into the countryside, and it’s always mayhem. Fascinating, clever (often foggy, cold, and wet, or in this case, freezing and snow-packed) and bloody mayhem. This is the Cold War hotted up. Bad guys get into the UK and start hunting people. Lamb’s people. And one of them is responsible for slaughtering his joes before and right at home, too. I’m fond of the characters. I was pleased to see more of River Cartwright again. He was the main character who introduced the series, and he’s a main thread that holds it together, but he’s certainly not alone. Jackson Lamb’s right hand is Catherine, the ‘reformed’ alcoholic, who is still living every day looking forward to the special bottle of wine she’s going to buy at the bottle shop on the way home. Rodney Ho, the RodMan, the self-proclaimed digital magician has a running monologue in his head that is always entertaining. (To be fair, he IS pretty good at tracking stuff down.) “The Rodster, on the other hand; give the Rodster anything with a monitor and a keyboard, he’d be watching rough cuts of the next Star Wars movie before you’d opened the popcorn.” Then there's Shirley, ah yes, Shirley. “Shirley had attended court-mandated anger management sessions not long back, and the sessions had been successful in the sense that she didn’t have to go to them any more, but unsuccessful in the sense that she’d punched someone in a nightclub earlier in the week. . . her anorak’s skin was plucked and pitted from a recent encounter outside a nightclub, when a stuccoed wall had been used as a vertical mattress . . .” Slough House is a character in itself, smothering the crew with its clammy dinginess, and Herron describes it so well that I tend to cringe from the smell and the rot. “The threadbare carpets, worn in patches, revealed a floor which did not inspire confidence, and the walls bulged inwards in places, as if planning to obliterate all they contained. Paintwork blurred into various stains daubed in accident or anger – coffee splashes, curry sauces – and corners were black with mould. Even the air: even the air felt like it had come in here to hide. No, this was as bad as things got. A flamethrower would only improve matters.” Herron has struck the perfect chord with his mix of spooks and politics and murder and intrigue and humour (black, non-PC, and downright chuckle-worthy). And to top it off, his descriptive passages alone are worth the price of admission. “And now the building subsides, the effect of shadows cast by a passing bus. Memories stir, the residue of long brooding – the stains people leave on the spaces they’ve occupied – but these will be gone by morning, leaving in their place the usual vacancies, into which new sorrows and frustrations will be poured. Soon winter will shake its big stick again, not only at London but at everything in its path, and great swathes of the country will be swallowed by snow. By the time it melts, Slough House will have new ghosts. Until then, it will do its best to forget those it already has.” Love it, love them all, and they just keep getting better. Thanks to NetGalley and John Murray Press for the preview copy. #JoeCountry #NetGalley

  5. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    This was another very good episode in Herron's Slough House series. The writing as always is superb, the landscape cold and icy, the body count high and the humour dark. However, it all felt a little too familiar and without many surprises. The characters seem set without further character development but perhaps we're just getting to know them too well. Lamb in particular has become somewhat of a caricature of himself, but perhaps there are no new surprises for us there either. Roddy Ho, post g This was another very good episode in Herron's Slough House series. The writing as always is superb, the landscape cold and icy, the body count high and the humour dark. However, it all felt a little too familiar and without many surprises. The characters seem set without further character development but perhaps we're just getting to know them too well. Lamb in particular has become somewhat of a caricature of himself, but perhaps there are no new surprises for us there either. Roddy Ho, post girlfriend experience, does continue to provide some of the lighter moments in the novel, particularly when we get to share his visions of himself. There are two new characters in play, one newly exiled to Slough House for a crime so repulsive even the slow horses are disgusted, and the other a victim of Lady Di's changing of the guard as she takes over as first desk. Herron has once again taken his characters out of their comfort zone in Slough House (where Lamb has them doing meaningless paperwork) and sent them out into the field, into Joe country. Louisa, still grieving for Min Harper, receives a call from Min's ex-wife asking for help to find her and Min's runaway son Lucas. She immediately asks for leave and with Roddy Ho's help tracks him to Wales. It seems he's got himself mixed up in something nasty so when Louisa drops out of contact Lamb sends in his troops to find her. Lamb is also concerned that River's father, ex-CIA agent Frank Harkness, now a mercenary leader, has been sighted at River's grandfather's funeral and wonders what he is doing back in the country. As snow keeps falling and the weather closes in, the chase to rescue Lucas becomes a bit of a farce with agents and mercenaries tracking each other through the wintery woods and empty sheds and barns. This became a little tedious, particularly as there was less use of spycraft, even of the slow horse variety, than in previous books. We're told in the opening chapter that two agents will end up dead, so it's a matter of anxiously holding your breath until we find out which ones. Herron doesn't mind bumping off favourites when it comes to killing his Joes. At the end of the book Herron has revealed that there are major changes ahead for Slough House and the slow horses, so we will just have to wait and see what those entail.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Without doubt, this is currently my favourite series at the moment. Mick Herron has created an intelligent, darkly humorous, world of spooks and outsiders, which are enriched, and linked to, the novellas, which he ties into this book. This is very much part of a series though, so do not start with this book and imagine you can jump right in, or you will be lost. Instead, head back to, “Slow Horses,” and I envy you discovering Herron’s world from the start. There is a new Slow Horse in this book, Without doubt, this is currently my favourite series at the moment. Mick Herron has created an intelligent, darkly humorous, world of spooks and outsiders, which are enriched, and linked to, the novellas, which he ties into this book. This is very much part of a series though, so do not start with this book and imagine you can jump right in, or you will be lost. Instead, head back to, “Slow Horses,” and I envy you discovering Herron’s world from the start. There is a new Slow Horse in this book, Alex Wicinski, who begins life at Slough House like so many before him – confused, bewildered, and in denial. This will all be sorted, he will soon be back at the Park and his life will soon be back on track. Those who have already been side-lined to the world of the Slow Horses avoid him, as though his despair is contagious. They know the score and are aware the road from the Park to Slough House, is one way. However, the mindless, numbing tasks that the group are usually involved in, are soon forgotten, as, some of the Slow Horses, find themselves, once again in Joe Country. Louisa is asked to help Min Harper’s wife and, out of guilt, and a sense of responsibility, finds herself on a mission that should be fairly simple and soon isn’t. Meanwhile, River is enraged when his long missing father appears back in the picture and, as he so often does, reacts without thinking things through. From Mick Herron’s sly portraits of current politicians, to his recognition of the casual cruelty still deemed acceptable by those with money and power, through to his wonderful recognitions of the weaknesses and strengths of the country (including London grinding to a halt after a few snowflakes) and we are back in his world. Beneath the humour there is darkness, and danger, and death. Fans will be smitten, concerned, and emotionally wrung out by the end of this book. As it should be, we long to read more. I (gratefully) received a copy of this book from the publishers, via NetGalley, for review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    William

    *** UK £0.99 today at Amazon *** W O W ! Mick Herron reaches the top tier! Just look at all the quotes below! Joe Country is by far his best-ever spy noir. Fabulous! Thank you again, NetGalley, for this wonderful series. Truly great noir, and terrific wry humour. Whereas Herron's earlier books oozed bravado, this one exudes confidence. Herron is fully in control, and the result is marvellous. As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary of the book. Thank you. London's *** UK £0.99 today at Amazon *** W O W ! Mick Herron reaches the top tier! Just look at all the quotes below! Joe Country is by far his best-ever spy noir. Fabulous! Thank you again, NetGalley, for this wonderful series. Truly great noir, and terrific wry humour. Whereas Herron's earlier books oozed bravado, this one exudes confidence. Herron is fully in control, and the result is marvellous. As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary of the book. Thank you. London's Most Famous Spy Locations (The Telegraph) 48% Excellent so far. Great chats between the players, especially the private one between Catherine and Lamb. Scary one between Taverner and Judd. River's father, as we learned in the previous book, is really a terribly nasty piece of work. Some nasty people only get nastier with age, perhaps as a kind of desperation to make nastiness work for them. 55% I don't remember Shirley being such a total arse in previous books. Whatever. She's even worse here. Much of the book takes place in Wales during a snowstorm Full size image here 60% The arrogance, carelessness and inhumanity of those in charge of the Park keep compounding, ruining the lives of the innocent just to escape from responsibility for their ineptitude. Sickening. 76% Fascinating. Bad guy Lars dealing out some justice to a random gobshite along his path. Redemptive? No, he still heads off to kill the innocent. 78% Even though the story has split into eight points of view, Herron manages to keep them all straight and clear and tense. Great stuff ! 85% Terrific multiple climaxes, terrible losses and a very satisfying resolution. Extraordinary noir, poignant, complex and not at all predictable. Some outstanding quotes: Herron feels the city in winter: Snow was forecast, and the pavements were hard as iron.You felt it in each step, the bone-cold stones hammering through your frame, because this was what London did, when the weather reminded the city it was temporary: it hunched down tight. River considers his dying grandfather: The bed the O.B. would never leave was a clinical, robust device, with upright panels to prevent him from rolling off, and various machines monitoring his progress. On one, his pulse echoed, a signal tapped out from a wavering source. A last border crossing, thought River. His grandfather was entering joe country. Herron does not hide his political vitriol: It turned out that in the governance of a nation’s security, many absurd situations had to be worked around: a toxic clown in the Foreign Office [Boris Johnson], a state visit by a narcissistic bed-wetter [Trump], the tendency of the electorate to jump off' the occasional cliff [Brexit]. A bit of noir: And now the building [Slough House] subsides, the effect of shadows cast by a passing bus. Memories stir, the residue of long brooding-the stains people leave on the spaces they’ve occupied-but these will be gone by morning, leaving in their place the usual vacancies, into which new sorrows and frustrations will be poured. Lech contemplates his parents' journey from Poland after WW-2 ...he couldn’t help wondering how it had felt: refugees turning up from concentration camps, from a broken Europe, to find this bleak estate; its squat huts their new homes.There’d been watch towers and barbed wire fences. It can’t have looked like freedom. But freedom was measured, he supposed, by what you were leaving behind. The last of the O.B. [old bastard]: For the last year of his life, his grandfather’s conversations had had no anchor, and whether he’d been talking to Rose, who was absent, or River, who was not, made no difference; he would drift with the prevailing current, his conversation spinning into eddies or battering invisible rocks. All his life, River had heard tales from the old man’s past, the failures, the victories, the stalemates, and he had learned to read between the lines enough to tell which was which. But no longer. The scraps he heard now were remnants from a shot memory; tattered flags blown by conflicting winds.You’d need a map to know which side the old man had been on. Which might have been the last secret he needed to impart to his grandson; that in the end, all lines blurred. That no day had firm borders. River is repeatedly abused by memories of the disdain of his mother, and the outright cruelty of his father: River hadn’t lived with his mother since he was seven, when she’d left him at her parents’ door, and his fading memories of the life they’d shared were scrappy and unfulhlled. Until lately, when he’d thought about those years, the context had been one of bad parenting, but now he thought about how unhappy she must have been, how desperate. He didn’t think she’d survive another taste of that. He was pretty certain he wouldn’t survive hearing about it. Taverner trying to rid herself of her sins at Slough House, and the brilliant slob Lamb thwarting her at every turn: River would suggest they get a room, provided the room was soundproofed, locked, and had an alligator in it. Reminds us of Boris Johnson's utter, shameful failure as Foreign Secretary, set up by Theresa May two years ago: If you want your enemy to fail, give him something important to do. This stratagem-known for obscure historical reasons as ‘The Boris’ A bit of the love-hate of alcoholism: [Catherine] left the Tube a stop early, called at the Wine Citadel, and bought a Barolo. An understated label of which she approved. A good wine spoke for itself. It went into a plastic bag, and should have been an anonymous weight in her hand, but somehow wasn’t. There was something about a full bottle, the way it responded to gravity, that couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. It was like carrying a big brass key, which would open the biggest door ever heard of. Something's wrong with Lamb, even more than usual: Catherine: ‘Chest infection! You’re sure? It sounds like your whole body’s in revolt.’ Lamb: ‘Antibiotics’ll clear it up.’ C: ‘They tend not to work with drink taken.’ L: ‘They’re drugs, they’re not fucking Irishmen.’ Super-gnurd, Roddy Ho: He’d been listening to the classics lately-Guns n’ Roses; Deep Purple-an indication of growing maturity. There was a specially wistful drum solo on "Live in Japan". That shit had escaped him when he was younger. Betrayal: ... "enough,’ she said, ‘that he could work it out and sell the name?’ ‘He didn’t have to.’ Lamb’s words were hard as bullets. ‘He only had to sell a single syllable.’ That made no sense, until it did. What single syllable could make a difference? Only one Catherine could think of. She. Lamb considers the O.B. The last time she’d seen David Cartwright he’d been a scared old man, nervy of shadows. Perhaps it was true what they said about age: that in its darker corners lurk the monsters of our own making. Catherine's memories of the terrible end for her last boss, Charles Partner: Catherine closed her eyes and saw it again: Partner’s body in the bathtub; the contents of his head a red mess on the porcelain. A pulpy mixture, like trodden grapes. Some memories seared themselves on your mind, like a shadow on a wall after a nuclear flash. Louisa considers how far the service has fallen since the greats of the post-war/cold-war era: Secrecy was the Service’s watchword, but leaking like a sieve was what it did best. When the leaked material was classified the leaker was tracked down and strung up, or so the handbook required, Emma Flyte with River sees his apartment for the first time: "Nice as your place is.’ ‘My cleaner’s not been well.’ ‘Looks like your cleaner got old and died. Possibly of shock when decimal currency came in." River considers how to catch Frank, his monster of a father, with the limited resources of Slough House: Given the run of the hub, they’d pinpoint his whereabouts in hours, but with the resources at their disposal River might as well be on Slough House’s roof, using a kitchen roll holder as a telescope. Idiot Pynne considers the agent he's running in London: Pynne had never wanted to be a joe, preferring to view the world from a desk, confident that these desks would become bigger, their views more panoramic, as his career skyrocketed. But it couldn’t be denied that moments like this carried excitement; a pleasure that was necessarily furtive, borderline sexual. River confronts Lamb: River heard a striking match. Lamb: ‘Still got your going-away present?’ River: ‘Yes.’ L: ‘Good. Shoot yourself in the head. Then Shirley. Then the mad monk.’ R: ‘Definitely the order I’d choose,’ River said. The bad guys are armed with Sig Sauers Snow in joe country, in Wales: The fields all around were smooth plains, and the trees against the morning skyline looked like Christmas decorations. Snow, though. Soft and fluffy on the outside, but ruthless as a shark. It was the fucking Disney Corp by other means. Judd confronts Taverner: He raised a hand to forestall her response. ‘Don’t bother denying it. We both know the PM’s a tormented creature [Theresa May]. Like one of those soft toys lorry drivers fix to their radiator grilles.That expression she wears, it’s terror at all the oncoming vehicles.’ Full size image here

  8. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    I was thrilled when my hold on Joe Country came in at the library. Because what is better than spending time with the Slow Horses of Slough House? Once again, Jackson Lamb lets some of the horses out of the barn. They’re off to Wales in a snow storm to search for Louisa: ”We know Louisa was here,” he said. “We know she dumped her phone nearby...I think she got rid of it on purpose. She was going dark.” “Which is protocol,” said J.K. Coe, “after hostile contact.” “And she’s got her monkey wrench with I was thrilled when my hold on Joe Country came in at the library. Because what is better than spending time with the Slow Horses of Slough House? Once again, Jackson Lamb lets some of the horses out of the barn. They’re off to Wales in a snow storm to search for Louisa: ”We know Louisa was here,” he said. “We know she dumped her phone nearby...I think she got rid of it on purpose. She was going dark.” “Which is protocol,” said J.K. Coe, “after hostile contact.” “And she’s got her monkey wrench with her,” said Shirley. “Which means the hostiles might have suffered some contact themselves.” This novel has all of the things that readers of the Slough House series have come to expect: backstabbing, deceit, ill conceived rescue plans, and general obnoxiousness of certain characters. Lamb broke wind loudly. Nobody moved. “Did I misfart? That’s your signal to leave.” They left. Herron also has an excellent way of weaving the real events of our world into his nearly contemporary Britain. ”If Frank Harkness only went places he was welcome,” said Lamb, “he’d have the social life of Julian Assange.” “He’s already Kevin Spaceyed his career,” Lamb said. “If he wants to go for the full Rolf Harris, he’s a braver man than me.” If you haven’t met the failed spies of Slough House yet, by all means proceed to the first book, Slow Horses, and start to enjoy their despair. So many different ways to die arising from the same mistake. That could almost be a mission statement. If not for the Service as a whole, at least for Slough House.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chip

    Holy f'ing hell. Herron's Slow Horses series is the best mystery/thriller series being written, bar none. I'm a very fast reader, sometimes reading more for plot and developments than word by word but - although I still read this book in a single day, I don't skip anything Herron - his wording is too damn good to miss anything. Holy f'ing hell. Herron's Slow Horses series is the best mystery/thriller series being written, bar none. I'm a very fast reader, sometimes reading more for plot and developments than word by word but - although I still read this book in a single day, I don't skip anything Herron - his wording is too damn good to miss anything.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alex Cantone

    Frost had rimed the headstones’ edges; it had captured, too, a hundred spider webs, transforming them to works of antique beauty: jewellery fit to adorn the Egyptian dead… Joe Country opens with two mercenaries cleaning up after an aborted mission in South Wales, covering their tracks and the bodies, at least one of whom is a “Slow Horse”, one of the failed spooks consigned to reflect on moments of carelessness, a bad lifestyle choice or rubbing someone important up the wrong way, sentenced to te Frost had rimed the headstones’ edges; it had captured, too, a hundred spider webs, transforming them to works of antique beauty: jewellery fit to adorn the Egyptian dead… Joe Country opens with two mercenaries cleaning up after an aborted mission in South Wales, covering their tracks and the bodies, at least one of whom is a “Slow Horse”, one of the failed spooks consigned to reflect on moments of carelessness, a bad lifestyle choice or rubbing someone important up the wrong way, sentenced to tedium at Slough House, under the watchful eye of the odious Jackson Lamb. But with that teaser we have to wait for later in the book as events unfold. In London, after successfully back-stabbing the competition to gain the poisoned chalice that is First Desk at Regents Park (MI5 HQ), Di Tavener is sweeping her broom. An early departure is Top Dog, chief of internal security, Emma Flyte, formerly of the Met. Given an unpalatable alternative Flyte resigns. At Slough House, secretary Catherine is nursing her demons, after Di Taverner whispered in her ear ‘there’s something you ought to know’ about her current boss, Jackson Lamb and her previous boss, First Desk and outed traitor, Charles Partner. Elsewhere in the threadbare building, resident hacker - the self-styled “Rodstar” - Rodney Ho keeps a low profile after nearly becoming a traitor himself, but is intent on finding the dirt on new guy, Lech (Alec) Wicinski, and his downward spiral that led him there. Then Louisa Guy answers the phone ringing on the desk of former lover, the late Min Harper, to find that his widow wants to meet. Meanwhile, River Cartwright rushes to the death bed of his grandfather, the O.B. – a former cold war spy who raised him… After this rather sombre beginning to a dark and yet funny drama, three distinct threads emerge which overlap and eventually congeal. Min’s teenage son has gone missing and his mother enlists Louisa’s help to find him. At the O.B.’s funeral, River Cartwright is escorting his mother to the grave when he sees his father, Frank Harkness, former CIA operative turned mercenary, standing in the shadows and gives chase. Naturally, River is outwitted, but the scene is observed by many, and what was he actually doing there? The details of Harkness’s last UK appearance, shortly after the Westacres bombing, were still under wraps – not so much buried in the files for thirty years as left blowing in the wind, to be scattered for all time. Despite their failings and foibles, staff at Slough House have their strongpoints. Roddy was viewing footage from this morning now, thirty-two boxes worth, each flipping into a new channel every few seconds because there was a lot of CCTV in Hampstead: a lot. Like everywhere else in London, when you walked the streets you were auditioning for the non-speaking role of passer-by. Or perhaps trying out as a stuntman. The Rodstar homes in on the hire car Harkness was driving, and for his part, psycho-in-residence J K Coe, noted for his long silences, breaks his to give names of three bad actors arriving in Southhampton on the same ferry. As blizzard conditions grind the country to a halt, Louisa, with the unlikely help of Emma Flyte and the even less likely of Rodney Ho, heads to Wales to find Min’s missing son, with the others in “slow” pursuit, bickering as ever, totally underprepared. Given the run of the hub, they’d pinpoint (Harkness’s) whereabouts in hours, but with the resources at their disposal River might as well be on Slough House’s roof, using a kitchen roll holder as a telescope. Meanwhile Di Tavener meets with Peter Judd, a former Home Secretary, now a consultant, with an eye on returning to the political fray. Secrecy was the Service’s watchword, but leaking like a sieve was what it did best…so when Di Tavener had a meeting “off the books” she tagged it personal time in her calendar, happy for her staff to weave erotic legends around her absence, just as long as that kept them from any darker truth. These books just get better, though it would be useful to read the earlier ones first. The noir feel is interspersed with laugh out loud humour, potting at celebrities, Brexit, and yet another scandal involving a senior member of the Royal Family for the establishment to quietly sweep aside. Some profanities (but taken in context, fits perfectly). Along the way we discover secrets from Jackson Lamb’s past, how he always protects his “joes”, and where Molly Doran fits into the picture. The fates of two of the characters are revealed, but the biggest shock is saved for last: could this really be the final race for the “Slow Horses”? Overall: a perfect read. Flawed characters. A plot skillfully weaved. Moments of reflected beauty. Meaty chapters. Punctuation. Doesn’t get much better than that.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Deanna

    Quite the disappointment this time. This, the 6th in series, falls hard out of a formerly precariously balanced Goldilocks zone. The snarky, disgusting, clever, menacing, and biting banter and personal habits that define the Lamb persona and his relationship with pretty much everyone finally goes too far. Not necessarily too far with the Lamb character, but with it’s weight in the full tone of the book. Lamb’s spiky sick snark did, successfully, previously spill over to several of the others in Quite the disappointment this time. This, the 6th in series, falls hard out of a formerly precariously balanced Goldilocks zone. The snarky, disgusting, clever, menacing, and biting banter and personal habits that define the Lamb persona and his relationship with pretty much everyone finally goes too far. Not necessarily too far with the Lamb character, but with it’s weight in the full tone of the book. Lamb’s spiky sick snark did, successfully, previously spill over to several of the others in the cast of spies. And to Herron’s credit, in earlier books he gave each of these princes and princesses of snide their own versions of what seems to be the original take-off inspiration for Lamb and company, the British class-based stereotyped stance of preciously clever and snooty meets snarky ironic. But always, in stereotype, this is fit, if only just, for general company. Herron’s upending of key parts of that type used to make for a fresh and just-palatable-enough character set. His ability to make you look, cringe, and still care is part of his signature in this series. Unfortunately in this novel, his success with that tone seems to have encouraged a clumsy broad-brush application to all manner of characters in various roles and originations. It’s no longer believable, and voice differentiation and characterization is lost. For want of a nail, and so forth, this misstep has repercussions throughout. With many newer characters’ voices and personas inauthentic and therefore uninteresting, I no longer feared them or feared for them, which didn’t help carry the plot—which this time was overly complicated yet far too conveniently tied up at the end. The novel tried to be bigger, more far-reaching in several ways, an applaudable ambition. Herron is someone who could pull that off, but here it became tedious and slow before the middle and generally stayed that way, and where I expected the spark of the thriller genre and Herron’s formerly sure touch to pull it through, the results were mostly unbelievable and unrewarding. There is quite the body count, and of many of the wrong people, people you think didn’t deserve their fate. Add to that more grisly in-the-face shock value than usual. Again this fails, disappointingly, distressingly, to move me, only to depress me. Our favorite Slough House characters are pretty static in this novel. Some things happen to them and they have some behaviors to notice, but no one is credibly learning, growing, crumbling, or collapsing as compared to earlier novels. I looked forward to visiting them in this novel, but was left wondering if I was actually as interested in them as I thought I remembered being. I won’t be put off the whole series by one serious trip-up, but I will be looking for the next entry with as much trepidation as interest.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    Joe Country is the sixth book in the Slough House series by prize-winning British author, Mick Herron. Standing at the graveside next to his mother, River Cartwright is paying his final respects to his beloved grandfather, David. The solemnity of the occasion is shattered when he spots the unwelcome face of the man he would probably most want to kill, and gives chase. Back at Slough House, Jackson Lamb does not hesitate to set his charges to work on finding out when Frank Harkness arrived in the Joe Country is the sixth book in the Slough House series by prize-winning British author, Mick Herron. Standing at the graveside next to his mother, River Cartwright is paying his final respects to his beloved grandfather, David. The solemnity of the occasion is shattered when he spots the unwelcome face of the man he would probably most want to kill, and gives chase. Back at Slough House, Jackson Lamb does not hesitate to set his charges to work on finding out when Frank Harkness arrived in the country, with whom, and where he might be headed. Because his presence at the funeral cannot have been benign, and this is the man responsible for the death of at least one of his operatives. And they may be slow horses, but they're his slow horses, and Lamb will not tolerate trespass on his territory. Not participating, however, are: Louisa Guy, who is surprised to find herself taking leave to track down a teenaged boy as a favour to a certain widow; and Lech Wicinski, Slough House’s newest member. Readers of Herron’s novella, The Drop will be aware of the alleged misdeed that has landed him here, and is causing the others to keep their distance, despite his protestations of innocence. Events soon have several of them racing off to Wales despite the predicted heavy snowfall. This leads to some rather radical driving, reluctant huddling together for warmth, encounters with nasty killers, and an exploding barn. An earlobe is bitten off, toes are shot at and some home truths are told. As always, Lamb is the master of obnoxious insult (in fact, it seems to be rubbing off on his crew: Emma Flyte remarks “I sometimes wonder if Lamb gives you all lessons in smart-arsery”); Roddy Ho continues to remain deluded as to his own importance; Catherine Standish remains a stalwart of comfort and guidance; J.K. Coe maintains his silence; and Shirley Dander, despite passing her anger management course, still barely controls her simmering, sometimes seething, anger. Again, the dialogue provides plenty of (often quite black) humour and, while this one will incite plenty of guffaws rather than giggles, dedicated readers know that Herron shows his regular characters no mercy: from the first pages it is apparent that some of their number will probably be dead by the last page. The realisation of this by their colleagues is a sober moment that may well cause a lump in the throat. Di Taverner, now First Desk, apparently has plans for Slough House and the final page will have fans wondering what fate Herron intends for our favourite slow horses. Excellent British spy fiction, as always.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    'Two chicks,' Lars grumbled. 'What is this? Charlie's Angels?' Don't even think about reading this if you're new to Herron's Slow Horses series: too many plot trails, too many character arcs are carried forward from what has gone before. But for devotees, there are intriguing developments with PJ back on the scene, and as scarily obnoxious and self-serving as ever. I don't want to give away even hints of spoilers but will say that there are some painful deaths, a vast coincidence that ties th 'Two chicks,' Lars grumbled. 'What is this? Charlie's Angels?' Don't even think about reading this if you're new to Herron's Slow Horses series: too many plot trails, too many character arcs are carried forward from what has gone before. But for devotees, there are intriguing developments with PJ back on the scene, and as scarily obnoxious and self-serving as ever. I don't want to give away even hints of spoilers but will say that there are some painful deaths, a vast coincidence that ties the various plot strands together, and far too long spent chasing around snowy Wales for my taste with quick-switch cuts between the various hunters and huntees. Still, Herron's writing is just so sharp, snarky and blackly funny that I can forgive much; and his handle on realpolitik is spot-on as usual. And with a sudden revelation as the end, this series has bags more mileage - thankfully. Many thanks to John Murray for an ARC via NetGalley

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gram

    This latest tale in the Slough House series begins with a barn in Wales being set on fire. Two bodies are inside. Meanwhile, in London, Britain's head of the Secret Service, Diana "Lady Di" Taverner is being her usual manipulative self - wheeling and dealing with politicians to get more funding for the "spooks" before sacking Emma Flyte from her post as "Head Dog", in charge of the security staff at Secret Service HQ. Emma brilliantly sums up Diana Taverner's scheming with the line: "You'd burn This latest tale in the Slough House series begins with a barn in Wales being set on fire. Two bodies are inside. Meanwhile, in London, Britain's head of the Secret Service, Diana "Lady Di" Taverner is being her usual manipulative self - wheeling and dealing with politicians to get more funding for the "spooks" before sacking Emma Flyte from her post as "Head Dog", in charge of the security staff at Secret Service HQ. Emma brilliantly sums up Diana Taverner's scheming with the line: "You'd burn down a city to save face." At Slough House, the Slow Horses have a new member, Lech Wicinski. The reason for his demotion is far worse than any of the "crimes" made by the building's existing rejects who carry out all the boring jobs required to root out the various threats to the nation's security. One of them, River Cartwright, is preparing for the funeral of his grandfather, a former head of the Secret Service but that event turns into farce as he spots his father, ex CIA agent turned mercenary, Frank Harkness with whom River and his boss, Jackson Lamb, has a score to settle. This is the 7th book in the series - there having been a novella "The Drop" which preceded it and two characters from that book feature in "Joe Country". Another Slough House inmate, Louisa Guy, receives a call from the wife of her dead lover, Min Harper. Min's son Lucas has disappeared and his mother wants her to use her intelligence connections to find him. Various strands of the story spin out as Louisa takes a holiday in order to track down Lucas who is somewhere in Pembrokeshire. As she heads off on her mission, Jackson Lamb is informed that Frank Harkness and 3 European mercenaries seem to be heading to the same location as Louisa Guy. Keen to dish out justice to the man responsible for the death of one of his slow horses, Lamb sends River and 2 others to find out what the mercenary squad is up to. As they set off for Wales, winter sets in and the action switches between snowbound Pembrokeshire and London as author Mick Herron gradually draws the multiple strands of the story together. This is not a stand alone novel as there are too many links back to previous books in the series, but the main characters are up to their usual tricks with politicians and civil servants (including the spooks) bickering and backstabbing on a daily basis. There are marvellous descriptions of London and the living entity that is Slough House. There are also delightful descriptions of the winter weather and how a single day's snowfall paralyses Britain's cities and countryside; the latter adding more problems to the dangers already being faced by River and his colleagues. Jackson Lamb is his usual caustic self while his long suffering secretary Catherine has almost reached breaking point. Throughout this latest tale, the reader can delight in the jet black humour which laces all of the Slough House stories. I love how Mick Herron can skewer Britain's high and mighty in a single sentence and along the way take sideswipes at the Brexit debacle and the machinations of politicians who only have their own interests at heart. A great addition to a wonderful series. Highly recommended. My thanks to John Murray Press and NetGalley for a copy of this book in return for an unbiased review. (Please note that I have already bought the previous 5 and a half Slough House books, so I'm a committed fan!)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Absolutely superb. This series is remarkable. It's very clever and witty, full of abominable people, and yet Mick Herron makes us care intensely for a fair few of them. It seems as if every human failing can be found in Slough House, the place where disgraced spies are sent to be forgotten, not to mention a fair few tragedies and ghosts, but there's a warmth to be found in the least likely of places. Much of the story here takes place in a frozen, snow-covered Pembrokeshire, and it is shocking. Absolutely superb. This series is remarkable. It's very clever and witty, full of abominable people, and yet Mick Herron makes us care intensely for a fair few of them. It seems as if every human failing can be found in Slough House, the place where disgraced spies are sent to be forgotten, not to mention a fair few tragedies and ghosts, but there's a warmth to be found in the least likely of places. Much of the story here takes place in a frozen, snow-covered Pembrokeshire, and it is shocking. Brilliant storytelling by the master of the modern spy thriller. Once met, Jackson Lamb can never be forgotten. Roderick Ho, my personal favourite, is on top form here. Review to follow closer to publication on For Winter Nights.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    Anyone considering reading Joe Country (Slough House #6) (2019), who has yet to read the rest of the series, needs to forget that idea and go back to the beginning. If you're in that fortunate position then I envy you. These books only make sense as an ongoing series. As usual, once I got my mitts on Joe Country, it was very difficult to think about anything else. It's another splendid excursion into the world of the slow horses. Regular readers will know that the sense of jeopardy is very real. Anyone considering reading Joe Country (Slough House #6) (2019), who has yet to read the rest of the series, needs to forget that idea and go back to the beginning. If you're in that fortunate position then I envy you. These books only make sense as an ongoing series. As usual, once I got my mitts on Joe Country, it was very difficult to think about anything else. It's another splendid excursion into the world of the slow horses. Regular readers will know that the sense of jeopardy is very real. Favourite characters can, and do, die. Slough House is the dumping ground for MI5’s misfits and failures, rather than risk unfair dismissal, the hope and expectation is that the soul destroying work at Slough House will eventually result in resignation. This makes for a marvellous collection of eclectic and memorable characters. Jackson Lamb, the Slough House boss, being the most memorable of the lot. Instantly dislikeable, he wears his obnoxiousness, and disgusting personal habits, as a badge of honour. Underestimate him at your peril though. And, beneath that gruff exterior perhaps he does ultimately look out for each and every slow horse? They are all his "Joes" after all. Joe Country follows straight on from The Drop: A Slough House Novella (Slough House #5.5) which introduced a new slow horse - Lech Wicinski. I don't want to say anything about the plot because that might ruin the magic of the various plot twists, suffice to say it delivers, as always. Is it a five star read? Maybe not, but the rating is as much for the series and for this particular book. An explosive revelation at the end already has me longing for the next installment. Hurry up Mick. 5/5

  17. 5 out of 5

    Judy Lesley

    I opened the book just to take a quick peek. Yeah, I've kidded myself with that kind of thinking before. Naturally, before I put the book down I was halfway through it and very put out that I couldn't keep my eyes open much longer. My choices were either sleep with my head on the table or go get in the bed. Don't you just love it when you pick up a book and it's every bit as good as you wanted it to be? Mick Herron is an author who doesn't disappoint me with his writing because his character deve I opened the book just to take a quick peek. Yeah, I've kidded myself with that kind of thinking before. Naturally, before I put the book down I was halfway through it and very put out that I couldn't keep my eyes open much longer. My choices were either sleep with my head on the table or go get in the bed. Don't you just love it when you pick up a book and it's every bit as good as you wanted it to be? Mick Herron is an author who doesn't disappoint me with his writing because his character development is simply amazing. One of my favorite characters in the Slough House series has to be Roddy Ho just because he's so funny without having any idea that he's funny. His inner conversations are priceless and you know the Rodster is going to come out on top of any situation he finds himself in - well, maybe in his dreams. The American spy Frank Harkness is back causing all kinds of problems for River Cartwright and the MI5 rejects clustered together far, far away from The Park. There's a new member of the outcast community and dead members seem to be coming back to haunt the living. It all appears to start at the funeral of the O. B. (Old Bastard) but we all know spy history doesn't have to go way back to be dangerous. Set in Wales in a snowstorm, you will think you are about to freeze to death as the body count goes up and up. This is book six in the series. You don't have to read the previous books before this one, I just hope you will. Something ominous is building for our circle of misfits and I'm definitely going to be waiting for the next book in the series to see what it is. If Lady Di has her sights firmly set on Slough House, can they survive whatever she's planning? Thank you to Soho Press and the Amazon Vine Voices program for an ARC of this novel.

  18. 5 out of 5

    The Cats’ Mother

    Book six in the magnificent Slough House series is probably the bleakest yet - I finished this feeling as numb as if I myself had been battling through the snow-storm that serves as a backdrop for all the action. We know from the start that at least two of the Slow Horses won’t make it out, and since Herron has proved in the earlier books that no one is safe, the wait to find out who was unbearable - but made for one hell of a thriller. I haven’t read The List or The Drop, which are the novellas Book six in the magnificent Slough House series is probably the bleakest yet - I finished this feeling as numb as if I myself had been battling through the snow-storm that serves as a backdrop for all the action. We know from the start that at least two of the Slow Horses won’t make it out, and since Herron has proved in the earlier books that no one is safe, the wait to find out who was unbearable - but made for one hell of a thriller. I haven’t read The List or The Drop, which are the novellas about different characters in the SH world, and explain how Alec/Lech Wicinski ends up a Slow Horse; I didn’t think this was a problem as the backstory is filled in, but might come back to them later - they’re currently over-priced for their length. I was disappointed to be declined an ARC of this a few weeks ago, but would’ve been happy to buy it, then saw it up there again and got lucky second time, giving me the excuse to put it to the top of my TBR. It deep winter and the Slow Horses are trudging through their days of apparently meaningless makework imposed by their boss, the insufferable Jackson Lamb. When Louisa, still mourning the future she had planned with Min Harper more than the man himself, receives a call from his ex-wife to say their teenage son has gone missing, she sees links to the reappearance of River’s evil father, mercenary Frank Harness, and sets off to find him. When she goes dark, her colleagues will follow her trail to snowbound Wales, reluctantly sanctioned by Lamb, who won’t let anyone mess with his Joes. This is the wittiest modern thriller series out there - the prose is breathtaking in its dry savagery, skewering primarily the British political situation and its leaders, but really no one is spared. The Security Services are depicted as just another agency to spare the the elite from embarrassment, with cover-ups as routine as housekeeping. The secondary plot - Lech’s attempts to find out who had him banished by putting child porn onto his laptop - with horrific consequences, demonstrated how callous the higher-ups are even when dealing with their own, and Lamb can be just as bad. There is humour here, but it’s pretty grim: the world seen through the eyes of Roddy Ho is as light as it gets, but I love that kind of black comedy which is pretty rare in thriller fiction. There are thinly disguised caricatures of politicians, and not just British (the mention of a visit by a bed wetting narcissist had me snorting into my wine). Something awful happens to a bird in the beginning - is this a new trend? - Black Summer did this too - but that’s the only harm suffered by animals. I can’t say the same about people, mind. I definitely recommend reading these books in order from the beginning, as while each is a separate story, you need to know each character’s history to understand why such a bunch of misfits will put their lives on the line for each other. There are clearly more Machiavellian schemes ahead for the team to navigate and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc which allowed me to give an honest review. Joe Country is available now.

  19. 5 out of 5

    SueKich

    Slow Horses #6: Frozen assets. If you’re into Mick Herron’s books about loser spies then you won’t need a sales pitch. If you haven’t discovered this terrific series yet and you want to make up for lost time, then get cracking! If you love a laugh, a plot, a gallery of characters, if you love a writer who knows how to entertain with a capital E, if you’re into spooks that fit into no known mould, stretching credulity perhaps but doing it in the most amusing way (Roddy Ho, I’m talking to you) then Slow Horses #6: Frozen assets. If you’re into Mick Herron’s books about loser spies then you won’t need a sales pitch. If you haven’t discovered this terrific series yet and you want to make up for lost time, then get cracking! If you love a laugh, a plot, a gallery of characters, if you love a writer who knows how to entertain with a capital E, if you’re into spooks that fit into no known mould, stretching credulity perhaps but doing it in the most amusing way (Roddy Ho, I’m talking to you) then step right up for some serious fun and games. In #6, the action moves from London to Wales in treacherous snowy conditions that prove almost as dangerous as the foes our spooks face. This is very well evoked though milked literally to death. I won’t go into the mad plot involving ex-foreign ministers and naughty royalty but it’s nicely intricate and, though wildly far-fetched, worryingly believable. The main quibble – as ever – is that the final climax goes on f-a-a-a-r t-o-o-o l-o-o-o-ng. I was going to leave you with some hilarious quotes but see that I have bookmarked almost the entire book. Way to go, Mick Herron! My grateful thanks to John Murray for the arc courtesy of NetGalley.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    Jackson Lamb is an anti-hero if I've ever seen one. He is ill-mannered, messy and sarcastic, but when his slow horses are threatened by a cunning foreign spy and his team of assassins, Lamb protects them at any cost. The plot is at times slow-moving, but also very complex. The reader gains insight into the different employees toiling away at Slough House, and discovers how many of them ended up working in the undesirable location. This includes the newest slow horse, Lech Wicinski, who's fate is Jackson Lamb is an anti-hero if I've ever seen one. He is ill-mannered, messy and sarcastic, but when his slow horses are threatened by a cunning foreign spy and his team of assassins, Lamb protects them at any cost. The plot is at times slow-moving, but also very complex. The reader gains insight into the different employees toiling away at Slough House, and discovers how many of them ended up working in the undesirable location. This includes the newest slow horse, Lech Wicinski, who's fate is tied to the other slow horses in more than one. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this thriller with its complex web of foreign and domestic spies warring in the midst of the unsuspecting London public, ever egomaniacal politicians, shifting alliances, old boys clubs, and of course the smashing showdown in snow laden Wales. This was my first book in the Jackson Lamb Series and the first book by Mick Herron, but the 6th book in the Jackson Lamb Series. Anyone who has lived and worked in London will immediately feel at home in the ageing building inhabiting Slough House, in perpetual disrepair, making all kinds of strange noises and seemingly on the brink of collapse. I can't wait to dive into the rest of the series and read them in chronological order this summer. Thanks to NetGalley, John Murray Press and Mick Herron for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marty Fried

    I'm not sure what makes me sadder - the fact that two of the good guys get killed, or that this is the last book of the series (for now, at least). Fortunately, the two dead people are not main characters, so life can go on. And there's one novella (5.5) that I haven't read, so there's that. Other than these problems, the book was great with lots of humor, often simple one-liners that make the series so much fun. Near the beginning of the book, Roddy Ho, clueless as always, got a new office mate I'm not sure what makes me sadder - the fact that two of the good guys get killed, or that this is the last book of the series (for now, at least). Fortunately, the two dead people are not main characters, so life can go on. And there's one novella (5.5) that I haven't read, so there's that. Other than these problems, the book was great with lots of humor, often simple one-liners that make the series so much fun. Near the beginning of the book, Roddy Ho, clueless as always, got a new office mate that he resented because he objected to Roddy's stuff being spread out everywhere, including the new guy's desk. So, Roddy decides to investigate the guy and find out why he was there, but failed. The next day, the guy was reading his mail, then wadded it all up, threw it in the waste bin, and stormed out. So, of course, Roddy has to go through the bin, and finds a bunch of blank pages, then finally one page that says "Fuck you, you little snoop." Roddy thinks "Now what the hell was that about?" Roddy really is clueless. He then reaches into the bin to get more papers, and bang! Instant pain. He got bit by a mousetrap. Roddy's clueless response was "Why the hell had the stupid bastard thrown away a perfectly good mousetrap?" Just one of many bits of fun and games at Slough House. Although there's lots of silliness, don't worry, everyone is polite and politically correct. Wait, wrong book, that's not the case at all. In case you haven't read any of the books yet, the boss, Charles Lamb, is the boss from hell. He's totally impolite, politically incorrect, seemingly mean-spirited, smokes where it's not allowed, drinks to excess, and seems fat and slovenly. And those are his good points. But he's the hero who seems to know it all, saves the day on a number of occasions, and gets his people out of trouble when he's not getting them into trouble. Nobody can control him, or even score a point against him, it seems. This series is so good that I plan to do something I rarely do - start over and reread the first few now that I know the characters better. I may or may not stop after the first few. But there's so much happening in each book that I know I miss things along the way.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sid Nuncius

    Joe Country is the sixth in Mick Herron’s Slough House series and it’s well up to standard – meaning that it’s terrific. A note for new readers: do not start here. You need to read the previous books to have any real idea of what is going on in Joe Country. (Be assured that reading them will be an unalleviated pleasure.) For those of us who know and love the series, this is an excellent instalment. The plot involves several of the Slow Horses ending up on a potentially deadly chase in snowbound Joe Country is the sixth in Mick Herron’s Slough House series and it’s well up to standard – meaning that it’s terrific. A note for new readers: do not start here. You need to read the previous books to have any real idea of what is going on in Joe Country. (Be assured that reading them will be an unalleviated pleasure.) For those of us who know and love the series, this is an excellent instalment. The plot involves several of the Slow Horses ending up on a potentially deadly chase in snowbound Wales, more sneaky and convoluted chicanery by Diana Taverner, the return of Frank Harkness among other threads, while the characters we know (and sort-of love) develop – or at least continue to be their well-drawn, entertaining selves. Meanwhile, Jackson Lamb continues to be repellently wonderful and often laugh-out-loud funny. He really is one of the great creations of 21st-Century fiction and remains on excellent form here. Herron manages to combine humour with a genuinely exciting story from which, as always, we really don’t know which characters will emerge alive. He writes and structures it extremely well and I was hooked pretty well from page 1. In short, this is a really good Slough House book; probably no more really need be said. Very warmly recommended. (My thanks to John Murray for an ARC via NetGalley.)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Pgchuis

    I was disappointed with this one. There was a fair amount of the usual humour I enjoy so much, but the plot seemed thin and bitty, and I got tired of endless snow and barns and sheds and snow. The fact that four assassins were sent after a teenage boy, failed miserably to neutralize him, and then their employer was happy to let things rest once the boy promised to keep his mouth shut, seemed unlikely to the point of being ridiculous. The last conversation between Judd and Taverner read like an es I was disappointed with this one. There was a fair amount of the usual humour I enjoy so much, but the plot seemed thin and bitty, and I got tired of endless snow and barns and sheds and snow. The fact that four assassins were sent after a teenage boy, failed miserably to neutralize him, and then their employer was happy to let things rest once the boy promised to keep his mouth shut, seemed unlikely to the point of being ridiculous. The last conversation between Judd and Taverner read like an essay and was a blatant set-up for a subsequent novel, which left me not terribly enthusiastic about reading it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Horton

    I’ve read all of the Slough House books, but abandoned this one at 30 percent. I’ve been thinking about why I didn’t engage with the story and concluded that my problem is that Herron’s characters aren’t developing any. “Failed” characters who don’t develop become depressing characters, and life’s just too short to read depressing books. That criticism aside, Herron is very talented and able to write a story with humor and insight. Unfortunately for me, Joe Country bogs down early, and I have too I’ve read all of the Slough House books, but abandoned this one at 30 percent. I’ve been thinking about why I didn’t engage with the story and concluded that my problem is that Herron’s characters aren’t developing any. “Failed” characters who don’t develop become depressing characters, and life’s just too short to read depressing books. That criticism aside, Herron is very talented and able to write a story with humor and insight. Unfortunately for me, Joe Country bogs down early, and I have too many other books I’m excited about reading this summer.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Another brilliant book from Herron. There is a consistent rhythm to the action as all the elements are gathered with appropriate characters assembled as they converge and deliver mayhem as in a summer storm. The tension is frequently relieved by comic delivery of vulgarities by our main man, Jackson Lamb, but unresolved problems and more losses leave us with disharmony and the desire for more. This is not a book to read without having read all of the previous five. I do love this series. It stand Another brilliant book from Herron. There is a consistent rhythm to the action as all the elements are gathered with appropriate characters assembled as they converge and deliver mayhem as in a summer storm. The tension is frequently relieved by comic delivery of vulgarities by our main man, Jackson Lamb, but unresolved problems and more losses leave us with disharmony and the desire for more. This is not a book to read without having read all of the previous five. I do love this series. It stands alone.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Maine Colonial

    I received a publisher's free advance review copy. Val McDermid’s blurb says “Mick Herron is the John le Carré of our generation.” Well, sort of, I guess, in that Herron’s Slough House series is about the British intelligence services, whose deeply cynical agents operate in a political environment that hardly deserves protecting. But the tone is different from le Carré’s. It reminds me of the late Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe series, with Herron’s Jackson Lamb playing the Dalziel part. But I received a publisher's free advance review copy. Val McDermid’s blurb says “Mick Herron is the John le Carré of our generation.” Well, sort of, I guess, in that Herron’s Slough House series is about the British intelligence services, whose deeply cynical agents operate in a political environment that hardly deserves protecting. But the tone is different from le Carré’s. It reminds me of the late Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe series, with Herron’s Jackson Lamb playing the Dalziel part. But comparing Herron to le Carré or Hill, or both, isn’t fair. Herron’s books are unique—and dazzling. First off, I would not recommend you read this book before reading the rest of the series, which begins with Slow Horses. You can follow this book without doing that, but you will miss a lot of the back stories and nuance. Two events spark the action in this fast-paced sixth entry in the series. First, at his grandfather’s funeral, River Cartwright spots the man that all Slough House residents want to get their hands on. Second, Louisa Guy decides to track down the missing teenage son of her old colleague and lover, Min Harper. Herron masterfully weaves these threads together in a plot filled with literal and figurative knife work. It’s not all action, though. The messed-up lives and smartarse dialog of the Slow Horses is on full display, including new inmate Lech Wicinski. It’s a great read from a writer who gets better and better.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Anmiryam

    You thought Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire was the best current example of double dealing and politicking? You were wrong. Mick Herron's fabulous series following the darkly humorous, often absurd, and sometimes tragic misadventures of a group of disgraced MI-5 agents is at least as good, and often better, especially as Herron infuses these novels with a sense of immediacy regarding current political winds. Brexit, Trump, terrorism, the fallout of the Cold War? They're all looming over the You thought Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire was the best current example of double dealing and politicking? You were wrong. Mick Herron's fabulous series following the darkly humorous, often absurd, and sometimes tragic misadventures of a group of disgraced MI-5 agents is at least as good, and often better, especially as Herron infuses these novels with a sense of immediacy regarding current political winds. Brexit, Trump, terrorism, the fallout of the Cold War? They're all looming over these books and impacting characters' choices. The central action in this installment of this outstanding series isn't as captivating as some earlier installments, but the elements of progress to the underlying narrative arc involving the slow horses more than make up for it. Will Slough House survive? Will Jackson Lamb succumb to his bad habits before he can insure some future for his crew of fuck ups? Is Frank Harkness really dead (I'm betting on not). Will Diana Taverner finally be thrown under the bus (I hope so -- and not just metaphorically). Alas, I need to wait another year before getting any sense of where this saga of skulduggery heading. I may need to read them all over again from the beginning.

  28. 4 out of 5

    OutlawPoet

    So, I made the mistake of starting this series with this book. Yet, I still really liked it. The author's writing style is immediately engaging and atmospheric. I felt like I got to know our 'Joes' pretty quickly. The situations in the book quickly turn precarious and had me truly worried over our characters! I'll admit that being new to the series did leave me at a bit of a detriment. Subtleties were likely lost on me and some of the fondness that other readers may have had for the characters esc So, I made the mistake of starting this series with this book. Yet, I still really liked it. The author's writing style is immediately engaging and atmospheric. I felt like I got to know our 'Joes' pretty quickly. The situations in the book quickly turn precarious and had me truly worried over our characters! I'll admit that being new to the series did leave me at a bit of a detriment. Subtleties were likely lost on me and some of the fondness that other readers may have had for the characters escaped me. But I still ended up liking it immensely and curious to read the other books. For an author to create such an all encompassing world, but still make it accessible to new readers shows skill. I can't wait to discover more.,

  29. 4 out of 5

    debra

    4.5 Very clever, funny and interesting. Occasionally the "funny" was exhausting, but I loved all the characters(esp. Lamb, and I know that does not reflect well on me) and had to round up. 4.5 Very clever, funny and interesting. Occasionally the "funny" was exhausting, but I loved all the characters(esp. Lamb, and I know that does not reflect well on me) and had to round up.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elaine Tomasso

    I would like to thank Netgalley and John Murray Press for an advance copy of Joe Country, the sixth novel to feature Jackson Lamb and his MI5 rejects at Slough House. Slough House and its denizens, known pejoratively as Slow Horses because they have all made mistakes bad enough to be banished from mainline Secret Service work, are having a quiet time until a string of events sends them back into unofficial action. I thoroughly enjoyed Joe Country which had me laughing throughout, not just at the d I would like to thank Netgalley and John Murray Press for an advance copy of Joe Country, the sixth novel to feature Jackson Lamb and his MI5 rejects at Slough House. Slough House and its denizens, known pejoratively as Slow Horses because they have all made mistakes bad enough to be banished from mainline Secret Service work, are having a quiet time until a string of events sends them back into unofficial action. I thoroughly enjoyed Joe Country which had me laughing throughout, not just at the dialogue but the generally absurd situations the characters end up in and above all the sly take on the world of espionage (the eponymous Joe Country). Where to start? The idea of an office where the failures are sent to process useless and tedious paperwork in the hope that they will resign is brilliant but to then make them people with certain skills and an over abundance of hope that they will get their old jobs back is even better. The situations that they get into are a triumph of that hope over capability thus making them extremely amusing. The machinations of Diana Taverner “first desk” at “Five” are less amusing but the most believable part of the novel, being callous, calculating and often cruel. I love it when she gets her comeuppance, especially if it’s at the hands of the Machiavellian Jackson Lamb. The plotting in this novel which I would find hard to discuss without spoilers is clever, amusing and, at times, touching. There is a strong sense of lost colleagues, loyalty and revenge running through the novel with Lamb, in particular, unusually animated. It is strong characterisation that really makes the novel from the dreadful Roddy Ho (delusional stalker) to the recovering alcoholic, Catherine Standish (voice of reason) and various points in between. The standouts are, however Jackson Lamb, head of Slough House and Diana “Lady Di” Taverner, head of MI5. She is just awful and so is Lamb physically as he has all sorts of disgusting habits but he has a wonderful mind, always a few steps ahead of the pack and a strong loyalty to his team. Joe Country is a great read which I have no hesitation in recommending.

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