Book Review: THE SECRET HOURS by Mick Herron

Book Review: THE SECRET HOURS by Mick Herron

The Secret Hours by Mick Herron is a must-read spy vs spy thriller.

Like John le Carré’s A LEGACY OF SPIES, which tells the backstory of his iconic spy thriller THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, this tale of espionage cross and double-cross reveals past lives of those who populate Mick Herron’s Slough House series about misfit British spies.

Also like the le Carré thriller, the action swings between London and Berlin, with spy organizations looking to the past to solve today’s threats to their very existence.

Related review: A LEGACY OF SPIES

THE SECRET HOURS starts with heart-pounding action as Max, a retired academic living in the country, narrowly escapes a midnight home invasion. We get few clues about Max before the story moves to London.

There, a seemingly mundane government investigation called Monochrome. The purpose is to look at possible wrongdoing by the security service referred to as Regent’s Park, its address in London.

The two minimally successful civil servants assigned to run the admin side of Monochrome have little leverage and zero political power. The wily head of Regent’s Park maneuvers to keep official files out of Monochrome’s way.

This means that Monochrome is a paper exercise set up by the last Prime Minister that will stutter on until it can be closed down with a minimum of press coverage.

Except that an eye-popping stray file finds its way to Monochrome’s minders. A real witness is called to testify.

Through her testimony, we’re whisked to Berlin and tossed into a murky operation conducted by a larger-than-life British intel officer. After the fall of the wall, the witness, then a 20-something, was sent to the embassy in Berlin to keep an eye on him. She finds out that he is running an unauthorized operation to catch an East German Stasi officer who killed his agent, helped by her brother, a black market fixer.

The descriptions of a newly restored Berlin are fabulous. East meets West in the black market, seedy nightclubs, and crumbling buildings.

Besides the lush vocabulary and wry undertone, I really appreciated the sense of anticipation Herron creates; the certainty that you know something but you’re not sure what it is. The construction is flawless, including subtle verb tense changes to move the reader from the present into the past.

No one is who they say they are but if you’re read any of the Slough House books, go ahead and make an educated guess.

It’s what all the best spies do.


Pin It on Pinterest