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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Dead Lions

Mick Herron

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To purchase Dead Lions

Title: Dead Lions
Author: Mick Herron
Genre: Novel
Written: 2013
Length: 347 pages
Availability: Dead Lions - US
Dead Lions - UK
Dead Lions - Canada
Les lions sont morts - France
Dead Lions - Deutschland
Dead Lions. In bocca al lupo - Italia
Leones muertos - España
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • The second in the Slough House series

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Our Assessment:

B+ : neatly plotted and twisted; good fun

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 7/10/2019 Hannes Hintermeier
Publishers Weekly A- 25/2/2013 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Sarkasmus ist eine der großen Stärken dieses Autors, schwarzer Humor eine weitere. Und an erzählerischer Phantasie scheint es ihm auch nicht zu mangeln. (...) Herron spielt gekonnt mit Mustern des Genres und überträgt dessen Regeln in die Gegenwart, die leider so viel digitaler und komplizierter geworden ist. Und viel weniger glamourös. Der Autor schlägt einen weiteren Nagel in den Sarg der einst so glorreichen Geheimdienstgeschichte Britanniens als Teil der überragenden Intelligenz des Empire. Gentleman-Spione, das ist Herrons Botschaft, die waren einmal." - Hannes Hintermeier, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "The complex plot drags a bit in the middle, as Herron gets quite a number of balls in the air, but once he does, the narrative picks up real steam and becomes genuinely thrilling. The novel is equally noteworthy for its often lyrical prose." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Dead Lions returns the reader to Slough House, a few months after the essentially sidelined crew there had enjoyed a rare taste of actual spying adventure and success, as chronicled in Slow Horses. Things have meanwhile returned back to the dreary normal that's expected at Slough House, where:

     There was a theory, of course, that they were given these jobs for a reason, and the reason was that they'd grow so mind-achingly bored they'd qui, saving the Service the hassle of bringing their employment to an end, with its attendant risk of being taken to tribunal.
       Run by Jackson Lamb, Slough House is where the MI5 agents who have proven themselves, in one way or another, unfit for regular spying-duty are sent out to a kind of pasture, left to handle the most tedious of assignments, generally of the paper-pushing sort -- a "dumping ground". If Lamb sniffs something more serious in the air, however, he doesn't shy away from getting himself and his team involved. So also with the odd case of the death of a former MI5 agent on a bus -- looking like it's of natural causes, but in circumstances that raise several red flags.
       The man is Dickie Bow, and Lamb knew him from way back when. Bow was tailing someone, as Lamb realizes -- and if that's the case, there must have been a good reason for him to do so. There are only bits and pieces of suggestive evidence, but there is a trail of breadcrumbs that would seem to be leading somewhere. Lamb follows up as best he can, intrigued by the whole set-up.
       Meanwhile, two Slough House agents have been assigned some work by MI5 proper -- since they can work more or less off the books, and it's the kind of operation that the real spymasters don't want to draw attention to until they're more sure about its eventual success. A big fish, a Russian oligarch named Arkady Pashkin, is coming to London for some meetings: "there'll be some high-level talk, and all of this needs to run smoothly. If it doesn't, well, the Park'll obviously need someone to blame" -- and that would be the two Slough House agents tasked with seeing everything goes smoothly -- and discreetly --, Louisa and Min.
       Anyone who is at Slough House has some flaws or weaknesses -- they are alcoholics or were too fond of gambling, or were responsible for some unfortunate but significant misstep --, but they're not incompetents. They were well-trained, and they have a variety of abilities -- not least Roderick Ho, who knows his way around computers (and puts that knowledge to a variety of dubious uses). Lamb, too, has very good instincts -- and is even willing to do some of the legwork necessary himself when something catches his attention.
       There's something fishy about both of the two cases here. The trail of the man that Dickie Bow was following seems to lead to the unlikely and out-of-the-way town of Upshott. Meanwhile, Arkady Pashkin's protectors seem even more suspicious than they really should and, while accidents will happen, something clearly isn't right here.
       Herron constructs a clever plot where a lot isn't what it seems to be. The Slough House crew variously realize this -- though at very different stages of the games, including, sometimes, very late in the day. (Computer-savvy Ho is particularly helpful in -- eventually -- figuring out what's what.) Lamb is on top of a lot of things, but even as he recognizes that some things don't add up -- or add up too easily -- untangling everything is complicated and messy. With much of what they initially thought they were involved in turning out to be something very different, the resolution involves a lot of adjustments and thinking on the fly -- certainly making for decent suspense and action.
       It's a neat variation on the spy thriller, Cold War echoes reverberating in various ways in contemporary times. There is a bit much stuffed in here, straining plausibility at points (especially as things heap up), but overall it's a solid plot and nicely unfolded.
       Herron's quick-shifting juggling-of-balls style -- short sections moving constantly back and forth between the various actors and places -- is generally effective and only annoying when he falls back on the not-reveal -- characters realizing or explaining something, but the details kept back from the reader for the moment (as in sections that end with: "He told her" -- without sharing what he told her). There's some solid character-presentation, and while there is a lot to keep track of, Herron doesn't overwhelm the reader; it all fits together.
       Solid entertainment and a good read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 30 January 2023

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Dead Lions: Reviews: Slow Horses - the Slough House TV miniseries: Mick Herron: Other books by Mick Herron under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Mick Herron was born in 1963.

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© 2023 the complete review

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