Friday Reads: Bad Actors by Mick Herron

I don’t remember whether it was the Apple TV+ series or a book that started my interest in Mick Herron’s spy novels. In my view, they are equally good. Bad Actors is the eighth and latest in Herron’s Slough House series. There are also four novellas. Slough House is purgatory for disgraced British MI5 service rejects placed apart from headquarters to serve out their careers. Central to all books in the series is the Slough House cast of colorful characters referred to as the “Slow Horses” – the B-team, if you will. In Bad Actors you will find some of the same characters and new ones as well – flawed as they all are. There is also the usual clash of personalities, backstabbing and insults, along with quick and sharp dialogue.

Mick Herron is kind of, sort of, somewhat, loosely in the company of many good and popular authors from among the espionage genre. Herron’s writing is especially witty and unique. These are intricate spy books that are also full of dark humor.

The Bad Actors narrative evolves from the growing tensions between the UK and Russia and a series of mysterious and supposedly unconnected events. A protest at a London arms fair leads into violence, a high-level politician disappears, and a shady organization known as “The Outfit” emerges to manipulate events from afar. As it happens, dispatched on a sideline task, Jackson Lamb’s “Slow Horses” find themselves in the midst of the chaos – a charade of conspiracy involving the upper echelons of government. Jackson Lamb is the offensive, slovenly leader of this group of misfits. Imagine Jackson Lamb with the well-worn trench coat, loosened necktie, longish unwashed hair, and days of unshaven face. A veteran intelligence officer, Lamb is a secretive, perceptive and shrewd spook. As outcast as they are, and as ill viewed, Jackson’s crew manages to pull it together and come out on top in the end.

The Apple TV+ series enriches Herron’s books, creating interest and adding multitudes of Herron fans.

Herron, Mick. Bad Actors. Soho Crime. 2022.

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