Real Tigers is the third full-length novel in Mick Herron’s Slough House series. While the first two books in the series laid the important groundwork, it is in Real Tigers where all the various elements come together to create a near-perfect spy novel.
Real Tigers begins with fan favorite “slow horse,” Catherine Standish, literally bumping into past colleague Sean Donovan outside the Slough House building. Given their complicated history, which the reader slowly becomes aware of, this coincidence is hardly a pleasant surprise. After parting ways, Catherine is brazenly abducted off the London streets, vanishing into the ether.
When another member of the “slow horses” is contacted and given a treasonous assignment (in exchange for Catherine’s safety), the loyalty within this misfit group leads to a cascading sequence of events that upsets the power dynamic at some of the highest reaches of the UK government. Jackson Lamb – the head of Slough House – has many (many!) flaws, but his ability to elicit a familial bond amongst his rag-tag collection of employees is not one of them.
What follows is a tightly-plotted novel in which each decision effects the standing of other members, but the ultimate goal is the survival of the Slough House division itself. Some will be lost along the way – theoretically for the greater good – and one misstep could be anyone’s last.
At the center of this new Slough House dilemma, is a rivalry between two of the most powerful women in the UK intelligence community. Mick Herron has crafted some of the most complex female characters to grace the pages of not only spy fiction, but any fiction, and they really shine throughout Real Tigers.
Virtually every page of this gripping novel merges tense moments with Herron’s wicked sense of humor, causing the reader to laugh-out-loud even as their knuckles turn white. The action set-pieces in Real Tigers are skillfully rendered without the action genres tendency to stretch them out unnecessarily. The stakes at play are extremely high and at times complex, but Herron manages to make the minutiae understandable even to those completely unfamiliar with the spy game and government structure in the United Kingdom.
Readers who might only read one Mick Herron Slough House novel might want to consider Real Tigers, however chances are that once finished, there will be no turning back until they have all been consumed.
REMINDER: Mick Herron will be one of the Guests of Honor at Left Coast Crime 2022 in Albuquerque. Taking place April 7-10, 2022, I hope to see you there. Registration information can be found here.