London Rules by Mick Herron [8/10]

Years of panting prematurely over spy thriller writers anointed as the next “Le Carre” have left me blasé about such claims, and that’s my excuse for somehow overlooking Oxford author Mick Herron. By “overlooking” I’m signalling, that yes, Herron is the genuine article, a brilliant stylist with a cynical wit that imbues his books with unexpected gravitas. And boy, can he plot! I stumbled across and then reviewed a recent novella, “The Drop,” and then went hunting for the full Jackson Lamb series. “London Rules” is Number 5 and if it’s not quite as stunning as a couple of the earlier ones, it’s still a magnificent novel. This time England is rocked by weird, savage terrorist acts at the same time as one of Jackson Lamb’s “slow horses,” webhead Roderick Ho, finds himself a target. All the series characters seem particularly beset by their demons and Lamb rampages in his usual gross, feinting way. The storyline rockets along and then shifts and shifts again. As ever, the scene setting is sublime. Herron’s dialogue has never been more scabrous. It’s taking a long time to unpeel the onion skin layers around Lamb but I’m in it for the long haul, relishing every tricksy, pulled-right-out-of-the-headlines story.

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