This is the fifth in Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb series, which in characterisation and tone is essentially a rollicking subversion of John le Carré’s books about George Smiley ... Stylistically, Herron’s narrative voice swoops from the high...to the low ... But it’s the dialogue that zings: the screenwriters of the inevitable TV version won’t have to change much ... The dominant tactic, though, is the juxtaposition of big jokes and high jeopardy ... Herron is a very funny writer, but also a serious plotter ... Readers may sometimes feel queasy that the creation of Lamb, a man who says the unsayable, gives Herron easy licence to write the unwritable on subjects such as race and disability, in the way that character comedy can allow performers to pass off bigotry as irony. For me, though, these grotesque creations have the subtler purpose of challenging a society that increasingly applies sensitivity and offensiveness tests to public discourse. Where Herron’s novels most overlap with those of Le Carré is in the severity of their critique of the failures of management in post-imperial, pre–Brexit Britain.
Herron manages to make his characters amusing, to devise a twisting-turning plot that is much more than a receptacle for one-liners and witticisms, to introduce serious and satirical political and social issues, and to blend the whole concoction with pungent dialogue and superb writing ... His plots, which are about crime rather than espionage, are ridiculously exaggerated and hugely funny. His characters are mostly unpleasant, corrupt or criminal—or wanting to be. They seek sex and fortune and talk incessantly and brilliantly ... In London Rules he has combined the essence of perpetual humour with a background of reality. He may make us laugh on every page, but he also makes us think.
The plot is complicated, the plotting of the various factions involved even more so, and it’s testament to Herron’s skills that you will never get lost. There is some fantastic verbal sparring ... From the pen of a lesser writer I’d be throwing the book down but it is so intelligently done—a bit like Bill Hicks—that I was nearly in tears with laughter. Ultimately, what saves [protagonist] Lamb (and Herron) is that Lamb really cares. Beneath the crude behavior, the insults and farting, the constant attempts to get Standish drinking again, if Lamb thinks you deserve it, then he is loyal and protective to the very end. Herron makes us care about all of his screw ups (okay, maybe not Ho), because he knows if we don’t, then the humour and satire will fall flat ... what connects the whole series, is their optimism for the human spirit. Dig in.
You don’t have to know Rod, or Shirley, or River Cartwright, or J.K. Coe, or any of Slough House’s other 'slow horses,' as they are known, to enjoy London Rules, the fifth book in the series. There’s enough background, woven in without spoilers, to keep new readers current, no matter where they begin ... Like all the other books in the series, this one is hilarious and suspenseful while it keenly fills out the unusual human characters that inhabit it. London Rules takes longer than some of Herron’s novels to pick up its momentum. But if it’s not Herron’s very best, it’s still much sharper than most espionage fiction being written today and manages to stay uncannily contemporary.
Satire supplements suspense in London Rules, Mick Herron’s latest volume in his amusing saga of Slough House ... Mr. Herron cleverly spins the templates of the spy thriller, and his style can bite with the wit of an Evelyn Waugh or Kingsley Amis.
Herron’s sharp wit makes the Slough House novels something special, his team of maverick spies bringing a delightful, freewheeling edge to the genre. This is prime spy fiction with more than a touch of wry.
A sixth round of troubles for the slow horses of Slough House, where burned-out, compromised, or incompetent members of Her Majesty’s intelligence community have been banished...pits them against a group of terrorists who seem to be working from MI5’s own playbook ... Just in case this all sounds uncomfortably menacing, a subplot concerning the threats posed to the nation’s security by a cross-dressing Brexit partisan is uncomfortably comical. Herron shows once again that the United Kingdom’s intelligence community is every bit as dysfunctional and alarmingly funny as Bill James’ cops and robbers.
...superlative ... The ironic title, an echo of the 'Moscow rules' trope of cold war fiction, conjures up the absurdities and intrigues of bureaucracy, espionage, and politics. Herron combines a strong plot with a fine, often comic style as he celebrates the power of community in response to terrorism.