JOE COUNTRY
By Mick Herron

 

Publisher: Soho Crime (June, 2019)
Format: hardcover
Price: $26.95
ISBN-13: 978-1-64129-055-5

Kindle edition: $14.99

 

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A Slough House Novel (Book 7)

 

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
(October, 2019)

 

You won’t find Slough House unless you really need to find it, and if you do, more pity you. Slough House is where MI5 agents who’ve blotted their copy books go to end up their derailed career. Among the current residents: Roddy Ho, the IT guy who has a higher opinion of himself than he deserves; Louisa Guy, who’d had an affair with the recently deceased former director, Min Harper; River Cartwright, whose grandfather had been an agent and whose absent father, Frank Harkness, is a rogue CIA agent and a dangerous man; and Catherine Standish, a struggling recovering alcoholic whose former boss, Charles Partner, turned out to be a traitor. He’d taken the easy way out: suicide. Catherine saw her assignment to Slough House as penance for her part in his crimes. Shirley Dander is the recipient of the director’s most tedious tasks.  She considers J.K. Coe, who once held a knife to her throat, at least three quarters psycho killer.

The latest inmate in the Slough House asylum is Lech aka/Alec Wicinski, a rising star in the service until kiddy porn was discovered on his office computer. He is certain a mistake has been made and that he will be absolved and returned to his job. The others could tell him not to hold his breath. Those who enter Slough House have hit the end of the trail. The head man at Slough House, once an agent, or “joe” working with Charles Partner, is Jackson Lamb, a gross, flatulent, hard-drinking jerk.

Most of the assignments for the motley crew consists of low-level, mind-numbing, pointless activities such as scanning library records to check for users checking out “suspect” books, but once in a while something juicy comes along. The group tends to work independently, but they all come together to attend the funeral of David Cartwright, River’s grandfather. Near the end of the service, River Cartwright sees a familiar figure standing at the edge of the cemetery: his father, ant takes off in pursuit. He isn’t hoping for a happy reunion: he intends to take the man out. The spy community all know that if Frank is showing his face in the country, something big and disastrous is in the wind. The spy community, including those in Slough House, go on full alert.

Louisa Guy gets a call from Min Harper’s widow, Clare. She knows about the affair, but she is in desperate need of help. Her teenage son Lucas has gone missing, and the police won’t take it seriously. Clare is hoping that her husband’s colleagues will step in. Louisa reluctantly agrees: she owes that much to Min’s son.

The trail led Louisa to Wales, to the family home in Pembrokeshire. A winter storm hindered her search. When she was attacked by heavily armed thugs, she realized that she wasn’t the only one looking for Lucas.  

Back at Slough House, word has come that something major is about to happen, and Frank Harkness is in the thick of it. Louisa’s cohorts at Slough House get concerned about Louisa, who should have returned days ago. They track her to Pembrokeshire, where she and Lucas are in deep trouble. Lucas holds the key to something the bad guys will do anything to obtain.

Hindered by a treacherous snowstorm, the team, Louisa, and Luke enter into a deadly game of cat and mouse with a gang of heavily-armed and ruthless men, racing through forests and city streets, death only a breath away.

This is the seventh novel in The Slough House Series. Herron also writes The Oxford Series, as well as several stand-alones. JOE COUNTRY is a spy story with plenty of sharp humor and pathos. The characters are all unique individuals with vivid back stories and richly described lives. Slough House is a character in itself, and sets the tone for the book. Highly recommended. 


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