The List by Mick Herron

The Blurb On The Back:

Dieter Hess, an aged spy, is dead, and John Bachelor, his MI5 handler, is in deep, deep trouble.  Death has revealed that the deceased had been keeping a secret second bank account – and there’s only ever one reason a spy has a secret second bank account.  The question of whether he was a double agent must be resolved, and its answer may undo an entire career’s worth of spy secrets.  

You can order THE LIST by Mick Herron from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

56-year-old John Bachelor works as a baby sitter for MI5’s retired assets.  It’s not a glamorous job, but it’s not difficult either – he checks in with them, listens to their complaints and politely stalls their demands for more money. Bachelor has recently lost one of his clients – Dieter Hess, an East German asset who’d provided MI5 with troop movements during the Cold War – and has cleaned through his belongings.  But he’s missed something and worse, Diana ‘Lady Di’ Taverner has spotted what he’s missed: Dieter had a secret second bank account that Bachelor knew nothing about and which has been receiving regular payments for the last 2 years.

Bachelor is told to make sure there were no nasty surprises in Dieter’s closet or he’ll lose his job and his pension.  So Bachelor trudges off to check through Dieter’s belongings once more and what he finds brings him into the ambit of JK Coe and, inevitably, the notorious Jackson Lamb …

This SLOUGH HOUSE short story by Mick Herron appeared in some hardback copies of LONDON RULES and is an entertaining read with some intriguing background on JK Coe and cameos from Jackson, River, Catherine and Lady Di but I wished the ending had been a little more definite.  There’s also an excerpt from NOBODY WALKS, which I will buy on the strength of this but the book is expensive for what it is and as such is one for completists only.

I’m a big fan of J K Coe so I enjoyed seeing him in this book as you get a sense of who he was before whatever happened to him, broke him and turned him into a stone cold psychopath (while also bringing him to Jackson’s attention, explaining why he would take him in at Slough House).  Also enjoyable are the Catherine and Jackson scenes and I liked the cameo from River, who’s roped in as Jackson’s driver and it’s always great to see Lady Di wielding her power and terrorising hapless newcomer, Bachelor.

However I did find the ending a little lacking and I would have happily read another 20 pages or so had Herron wanted to develop it further (hell, I’d have read this as a full novel).  Also, while I did enjoy the excerpt from NOBODY WALKS (and will definitely be buying a copy of that book on the strength of what I read here), the price you’re paying for this book is a lot for a short story that Jackson Lamb fans will have probably read already and a taster for a different book. I should confess at this point that I bought this thinking that it was an extension to the short story I’d read in LONDON RULES – my fault completely as I mis-read the product description – so although I did enjoy reading the story again, I was also disappointed to have basically paid for it twice.

On this basis, I think you’d be better off getting a copy of LONDON RULES if you haven’t already read it because you’ll be getting two SLOUGH HOUSE stories for one.  If your edition didn’t include the story, then I’d suggest buying this only if you’re a completist.

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