Slow Horses

Slow Horses is definitely not from a genre I normally read…most clearly evidenced by the fact that I do not even have a mystery/thriller “shelf” on Goodreads and that it had to be added to contemporary lit. But it was chosen as this month’s book for one of the book clubs I am in, which presented a wonderful chance to try something a little different.

Slow Horses by Mick Herron

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“Despite the fact that I wasn’t incredibly keen on reading the book in the first place, it turned out to be a not unenjoyable read (forgive me the double negative – I felt it was what best captured my lukewarm, yet not negative, feelings). In fact, I thought that the dialogue was some of the most interesting I’ve read recently, as far as how closely it follows a real life method of speaking. It was a little confusing to read, at times, but the breaks in certain spots, the trailing off, the obvious use of facial expressions to enhance the words, the references to previous events and thoughts that aren’t fully spelled out and require a lot of attention from the reader to put together…all of it is a great representation of real life interactions. And the plot’s focal point was, I felt, very apropos to the world today – looking into the POV of those who espouse extreme nationalism and their reactions to the increasing immigration and international co-mingling of the modern world.

However, the rest of it was a very typical, from my limited experience, spy thriller. Which is not what I expected, based on the blurb on the back, which made it sound much more like a humorous, bumbling sort of thriller. There was a whole government conspiracy situation, a timeline announced until a terrible act is committed, a race to “save the world” (if you’ll excuse the use of that phrase), and a number of characters and interactions between them all that bordered on being too confusing to follow. The pacing in the middle wasn’t bad, though to be honest, it started a bit slow and the last “after the fact” chapter, was absurdly wordy – like the author was trying to prove that even though he wrote a thriller, he could also write in a “highbrow” way. I actually enjoyed, as a reader, the quick cuts between scenes, even when things were cut off in the middle of conversations or at “cliffhanger” moments. I assume that’s fairly common for this genre, to keep the interest and blood pressure of the reader high and the need to focus on the story and turn the next page consistent. I still think it was written slower, or at least less breakneck-paced, than most thrillers, but the cut points and paired perspectives were well chosen.

I guess my overall impression is that this is a pretty run of the mill thriller. However, it was well written and edited. The conclusion – the way things fell out between characters, who walked away and who didn’t, who stepped up and who ended up “under the bus,” and the general denouement – was also satisfactory and seemed realistic and fitting under the circumstances. I believe that this is the start of a series of spy thrillers based around these”slow horses.” And though this one was ok, I do not think I’ll be reading the next ones (which is almost too bad, after the effort I put into getting all the characters names, backgrounds, and secrets sorted out). If you are into this genre, I’d say that it’s a solidly written story and you should go for it. If you aren’t, I’d say it’s probably not transcendent enough to make it worth your time.”

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