Dieter Hess, an aged spy, is dead, and John Bachelor, his MI5 handler, is in deep, deep trouble. Death has revealed that the deceased had been keeping a secret second bank account—and there’s only ever one reason a spy has a secret second bank account. The question of whether he was a double agent must be resolved, and its answer may undo an entire career’s worth of spy secrets.
A short here one from Mick Herron - a 100-odd page novella with enough intrigue and slippery cleverness to entertain me.
Jackson Lamb, the heartbeat of his Slough House series, makes a small appearance only, but I wasn’t pining for him here. John Bachelor is our main man. One of his retired spy’s – Dieter Hess has died and there’s a problem. Bachelor has to investigate a second bank account and the whys and wherefores. Or his far from stellar career on the “milk round” – a derogatory term for his work is over. The lady at the top threatening total ruin, the sack, loss of pension and possible prison if he doesn’t get things cleared up.
Bachelor finds a coded list at Hess’s flat under the carpet……. so obviously waiting for him it might as well have been addressed......... Bachelor deciphers the code easily enough – a list of 10 names. The list is then fobbed off onto a new recruit to dig and find the connection.
And on we go……..is there an active spy ring, is there a network of sleepers, did whoever set this up want it so obviously discovered, it would cast doubt on all they had believed from Hess in the past? Was Hess playing the Germans to make believe he had a ring in place, so he could extort funds for his retirement – just a scam in effect? Or was it just meant to look like a scam, to ensure the actual sleeper was in place and ignored?
He knows - you know. You know, he knows - you know. He knows you know he knows - you know – etc etc…… Herron weaving spells with double-triple back flips and somersaults and a dizzying mind-fuck!
Some great characters - Molly Dolan for one – the wheelchair bound archivist who works in the basement at MI5.
Some fantastic dialogue and a few turns of phrase that gave me pause……She laughed what sounded like a smoker’s laugh. Last time he’d heard anything quite like it, he’d been sanding off the edge of a door……another………”Coe’s still slimy with afterbirth, so you can’t blame him for being ignorant…”
A fantastic read, an hour’s or two’s top class entertainment in the world of lies and spooks and secrets. I think I would enjoy reading Mick Herron’s shopping list.
4 from 5
Slow Horse was reviewed here. Dead Lions was reviewed here. Real Tigers and Spook Street wait for me. Oh and a couple of his standalone books and his Zoe Boehm series also.
Mick Herron – the clever bastard, has his website here.
There's a link to a piece on Mick Herron and Jackson Lamb in The Guardian here.
Read in March, 2017
Published – 2015
Page count – 112
Source – purchased copy
Format - Kindle