Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
Readers are finally starting to discover Mick Herron, and his latest work SPOOK STREET, the fourth in his Slough House series will further enhance his reputation within the espionage genre.
Herron continues to use his cinematic, short-scene, cross-cutting, abrupt-conversation, indirect allusion method, but by the time that grizzled boss Jackson Lamb says that the faceless body found on an old spook’s bathroom floor belongs to his team; you know that something else is happening. The question, of course, which Herron is too professional to answer so early - is what this death has to do with a suicide bomber.
One of Herron’s most cunning tricks is to play with time. Flash mobs were in fashion five years ago; then they faded. There is no reason why Samit Chatterjee – the security guard who wonders at first what is happening in his mall – should not be reassured when he remembers what joy a flash mob of dancers could bring, so he should not ‘live and let live’ as the group forms; instead he should be concerned when the last figure joins the group and their spectators. The team at Slough House can follow his thinking as they watch the recorded CCTV footage in which he dies along with the crowd.
River Cartwright’s career has not been a great success. Failures end up at Slough House. His grandfather, David, had a much better name in the trade, though he has been long retired. River visits him to try to keep his memories alive, while stopping the old man living permanently in the past of dementia. It is in David’s lonely, country house that Jackson Lamb has to identify the body while everyone wonders where the old man has gone and if he has reverted to the methods of the past.
Finally, there is another house, family and more generations. For in-between sons and grandfathers, there are mothers, fathers and children. Herron begins to ask if there are people who want to raise their children not in their own image, but in another’s visage. Cuckoos destroy other eggs when they occupy nests; human cuckoos could destroy far more. If one of ‘the services’ had been planning and creating false identities ahead of time [aka clean skins]; what might happen if some of those identities had gone astray? What if some of those identities had been given to the cuckoos? Clearly the new generation of impersonators may not be like their predecessors, nor follow their original intentions.
‘Why?’ is the question Herron delays in answering, though the solution comes eventually as Herron’s elegant narrative unfurls to its climax.
On SPOOK STREET the streetlamps may fail to illuminate as a signal to the enemy, or because the electricity bill has not been paid: there is darkness either way.