Slow Horses by Mick Herron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Slow Horses builds from the idea that the punishment for spies who have failed at their jobs is to send them to Slough House where they do paperwork. The idea is logical but humorous at the same time. They spend all their time longing to get back in the field.
When a young man is abducted and his kidnappers threaten to broadcast his beheading live on the Internet, everyone from Slough House is intensely interested. Then they realize that they will simply be part of the viewing public since they aren't really spies anymore. Except, of course, that wouldn't make much of a story. River Cartwright sees this as an opportunity to redeem himself and soon the rest of the Slow Horses are pulled into the effort.
My favorite character was the Slough House boss, Jackson Lamb, who makes sure his crew knows they are mediocre, doesn't care a flip for them, and yet commands their respect because they all know he was a big field agent back in the day. His sardonic comments never failed to crack me up.
This was simply terrific. The humor is understated, the writing evokes London wonderfully, the plot twists like a pretzel but never loses you, and the suspense ratchets up so that by the end I was simply longing to see villains get their comeuppance.
I listened to Sean Barrett's reading, which was simply wonderful.