Lon­don Rules

USA TODAY US Edition - - LIFE -

By Mick Her­ron Soho Crime, 326 pp.

Mick Her­ron is a star in Eng­land thanks to his rau­cous, mor­dant spy nov­els, a true de­par­ture from the melan­choly old Gra­ham Greene model. “Lon­don Rules” is the fifth set in Slough House, where MI5 leaves its mis­fits in the doubt­ful care of Jack­son Lamb, a flat­u­lent and con­temp­tu­ous ge­nius of trade­craft. This time around, Lamb and his crew chase a nasty ter­ror­ist group, pro­tect two politi­cians, and de­cide if the real threat is com­ing from in­side the agency it­self. It’s a lot of plot – of­ten too much – and Her­ron spreads his sar­casm so evenly among the char­ac­ters that his book has a para­dox­i­cally mo­not­o­nous bril­liance. But he re­ally is funny (“Some while back there’d been three deaths in­side Slough House, which even Lamb al­lowed was pretty high for a mid-week after­noon”) and his cyn­i­cism is be­lied, here and there, by flashes of the min­gled ten­der­ness and anger that seem to de­fine Bri­tain’s post-Brexit self-reflections.

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