A standalone thriller that’s far from Slough House…

This is What Happened by Mick Herron

This is going to be a short review…

Mick Herron is the author of the utterly brilliant Jackson Lamb series of spy novels, following the workers of Slough House, where agents get put out to pasture. (If you haven’t read them, see here, here and here!)  He’s taken a break to write a short standalone thriller.

It starts off with a young woman, Maggie, who works in the postroom of a large corporation owned by a Chinese bank. She’s new in London and lives a lonely life in a bedsit, yet to make friends. However, she goes to a local coffee shop most days to watch the world go by. It’s here she is approached by a man who calls himself Harvey. He recruits her to tell him what’s happening in the building, says he works for ‘five’.  Then, he asks her to do a special job. It’ll mean staying late and hiding until she can get to a particular computer on one of the higher floors. She just has to put a USB stick in and let it do its thing, a mistake could cause the whole country’s economy to collapse – so the pressure’s on!

‘How long do I have to hide in the toilets?’ she had asked Harvey.
‘Until twelve. At least.’
‘The guard patrols all night long.’
‘But there’s only one of him. And he can’t be on every floor at once.’
She had an urge to confirm that the flash drive was still in her pocket, but any movement would bring the lights to life, and besides, she had checked three times already.
Alone in the dark Maggie squeezed her eyes shut, tried not to shiver, and made herself invisible.

You might we’re getting another spy thriller, but that’s not ‘what happened’. As the story unfolds, Herron wrongfoots us at every turn, taking us into a chilling world of manipulation, that poor naive Maggie, who’d let herself get sucked into Harvey’s plans, might not survive. To discuss this any further would spoil things too much.  It’s a very dark novel, it’s not nice at all, and the suspense does pile up with some masterly strokes of misdirection. Readable in one session, this kept me awake trying to guess how it would pan out. It’s not his best, but is an interesting diversion from the spooks of Slough House.  (8/10)


Source: Own Copy

Mick Herron, This is What Happened (John Murray, 2018) Hardback, 256 pages.

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4 thoughts on “A standalone thriller that’s far from Slough House…

  1. AnnaBookBel says:

    His Slough House novels are superb Cathy, better than this by quite a way – but if you don’t like spies, they may not be for you. This is a bit different.

  2. I do like the Slough House books, but the thing I find difficult to take about them is the relentless sarcasm, which seems to be less apparent here, at least from the quote you’ve chosen. It makes me wonder whether I might enjoy this more than continuing installments of the Jackson Lamb series!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      He wrote another series set in Oxford before the Slough House ones which I’ve yet to read, plus a couple of other standalones too. I must say I love the relentless sarcasm – it makes those books feel more real to me!

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