The Catch by Mick Herron

The Blurb On The Back:

If life in the Intelligence Service has taught John Bachelor anything, it’s to keep his head down.  Especially now, when he’s living rent-free in a dead spook’s flat.

So he’s not delighted to be woken at dawn by a pair of Regent’s Park’s heavies, looking for a client he’s not seen in years.

Benny Manors could be anywhere, provided it serves alcohol.  So John sets out on a reluctant trawl through the bars of the capital, all the while plagued by the age-old questions: will he end up sleeping in his car?  How many bottles of gin can be afford at London prices?

And just how far will Regent’s Park go to prevent anyone rocking the Establishment’s boat.

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

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s 8 months after THE DROP.

Beleaguered “milk man’ John Bachelor has been quietly living rent free in Solomon Dortmund’s flat.  The plan was to use it as a stop-gap while he built up his savings to get his own place, but that was never going to be easy after the Service reduced him to 3 days a week while his drinking habit seems to be consuming most of his money.  But John knew that the Service would catch up with him at some time and so it happens when he’s awakened at dawn by two of its finest heavies standing in his bedroom.  

Luckily for Bachelor, they only want to know the whereabouts of one of his clients – Benny Manors (a professional burglar and sometime blackmailer) – who Bachelor is supposed to check in on every month.  The problem is that Bachelor hasn’t seen him since their one and only meeting over 2 years before, when Benny made very clear that he had no intention of ever checking in with him.  Bachelor is given 2 days to find Benny and hand him over.

While Bachelor may have never been a high flyer in the Service, he knows when something doesn’t smell right and as he makes his way across London and Benny’s possible haunts, he slowly realises that he’s caught in a bigger game involving Diana ‘Lady Di’ Taverner and the British Establishment … He just doesn’t understand his role in it.

The third of Mick Herron’s novella accompaniments to the JACKSON LAMB SERIES featuring the hapless milk men, John Bachelor, is a slickly written affair that blatantly alludes to the Jeffrey Epstein affair and its impact on the British royal family.  There’s plenty of double dealing and hidden agendas and as ever, Bachelor has no clue of the bigger picture but it’s expensive for what it is and is probably for Jackson Lamb completists only.

Part of the fun of these novellas is waiting to see who turns up from the JACKSON LAMB SERIES and here the Machiavellian First Chair Diana ‘Lady Di’ Taverner turns up, as does Oliver Nash (the Head of the Liaisons Committee and Lady Di’s frenemy of convenience) and Richard Pynne (Lady Di’s former high flying protege who suffered a humiliating demotion to the press liaison office thanks to being hoodwinked in the Hannah Weiss affair).  Lady Di is one of my favourite characters in the JACKSON LAMB books because she’s so unrelenting in her ambition and she has a corkscrew intelligence that shows no loyalty to anyone other than those who are useful to her and I have to say that I do enjoy how she’s one step ahead of everyone else.

I’m less of a fan of John Bachelor and I think that’s partly because we’re reminded again of how bad he is at his job but this time it’s combined with some very low rent corruption, which I found difficult to empathise with even knowing his financial problems.  I think this is because he doesn’t take the opportunities he’s given and fails to get a grip on his alcoholism, which means that the one break he got in being able to sneak into Solomon’s flat, hasn’t done him any good in the long term because he’s spent his money on booze.  I’m not entirely without sympathy for him – there is something moving when he admits that all he wants is to not lose his flat – but he’s so useless that I sometimes wished I could give him a shake because he’s like a mouse being played with by the scheming Lady Di.

Herron is not particularly subtle in his reference to the death of a billionaire paedophile in an American jail or why this is an issue for the British Establishment.  Personally, I quite liked how he refers to that (not least because it’s not the first time he’s alluded to members of the royal family having cruel predilections) but it is very on the nose.  As always though, Herron puts in twists and turns that keep you guessing and it’s amazing how much he packs into such a thin novella.  And that brings me to my main issue with the book – it is very thin and the cover price for the hard cover is £9.99, which is expensive.  Unless you’re a Jackson Lamb completist, I’d actually wait for the paperback version (if you must have it) or at some point they will all be put together into a compilation, at which point you can follow them all from the beginning.  

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