Mick Herron's "Slow Horses" espionage novels. They're British and embedded in the classic MI5 framework -- but with a major twist that provides protagonists who are "failed spies," people who've messed up some major operation but can't be simply fired because they already know too much. Stashed among the misfits at Slough (pronounced Slow) House, they wither in their own estimation and in the noxious atmosphere provided by their "head of station."
So when I opened Herron's January 2018 offering, THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED, I kept expecting some connection back to the Slow Horses team, and when 26-year-old Maggie Barnes began to suspect she was being recruited for either industrial or international espionage, I started turning the pages even more rapidly than before. (Herron's storytelling is compelling ... his books are really, really hard to put down.)
My mistake. Unless I missed a very small mention (and I don't think I did), none of the Slow Horses spies turn up in this stand-alone suspense novel. Maggie, turned loose as a temporary infiltration agent, could be any one of us -- how would you do if thrust into a life-and-death, possible prison condition in a matter of hours after work one day? Who could save you??
Herron shapes a novella of psychological suspense in THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED. I won't shelve it on my Slow Horses section, but rather next to some work by Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell in her most twisted voice) and maybe even Stephen King, for the all-too-human pain involved. It's quite a read ... hope you pick up a copy to experience this other side of Herron's craft.
Slow Horses fans, keep in mind June 5, 2018, when the next in this series releases in the US: London Rules. Many thanks to Soho Crime for helping Herron keep these on a roll.
PS: Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.