James Bond, the sleuths of Spooks and John le Carré’s George Smiley might go about things a bit differently, but in their own way they’re all pretty damn good at spying (and being British). Yet when novelist Mick Herron came to depict the secret services in action, he rejected the traditional notion that just because his characters somehow landed a job in MI5 they have to be competent or successful at what they do. In Dead Lions, London’s Slough House is where the washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what’s left of their failed careers. The “slow-horses”, as they’re called, have all disgraced themselves and spend their time indulging in the same sort of activities pursued in the average workplace – petty office politics, bitter (verbal) sniping and desperate scheming to claw their way into the real action. But, every now and again, they’re given a chance to redeem themselves…
It’s a darkly comic and original premise for a spy thriller, and one that has been acknowledged and admired by the Golden Dagger judges. One of only eight books to be selected for the longlist, the judges described Dead Lions as “A well written, wickedly clever send-up of the classic British spy novel”. The shortlist will be announced later in August and the final winner at the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards in autumn – we’ll be rooting for Mick Herron’s slow horses to pick up the pace and gallop home at the finish!
(Soho Press, h/b,9781616952259, £18.99)
For more information about the CWA Golden Dagger awards visit www.thecwa.co.uk