The Secret Hours by Mick Herron

I absolutely love The Slow Horses series so thought that this might be a standalone book that was about something different. Wrong. Well, it can be read as a stand alone but it links to the Slow Horses explaining why Jackson Lamb is like he is and why the archivist is in a wheelchair.

There is a review, Monochrome, going on in the services, set up by the new Prime Minister and designed to get nowhere. As in Slow Horses, it is staffed by those who are going nowhere, both civil servants and MPs and they are up to about day 372 with everyone bored rigid. However, a secret folder is slipped into Malcolm’s trolley (even his name is boring and he is second chair on the inquiry)whilst he is at the supermarket. It is a scene straight out of a film and which reveals more than anyone cares to think about including the fact that there is a mole in the services.

The calling of the archivist to the review board reveals that Jackson Lamb (never named as this), hero of Berlin, had a joe and she was hanged along with two others due to a slip of his tongue, mentioning she instead of he. There were very few women in the Stasi at that time, and at her level, and so they were all killed by one man. Lamb made it his mission to catch this man, it’s just that it has taken about 30 years to do so. It is quite clever how he is caught. Di Tavener (again never named), First Desk, of course played a large role in this.

Herron is still taking digs at a Prime Minister who has eight or is it nine children and made a recent trip to Peppa Pig world and an adviser who is a blogger. We all know who those are. But what he does well, he does very well. The characters are clearly drawn, their motives made transparent, their boredom with their jobs right up front, their inability to get on in their careers and at being discriminated against, all set down for us to see and it makes spies sound just like us at work. Nothing special.

I’m still wondering what the secret hours are. Are they all the hours that people have to put in at their place of work to get that one moment where things suddenly take off and become exciting? If that’s the case, we are all like this and there is nothing different or special about spies.

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