Joe County

Joe County

Joe Country – Mick Herron

From a long reading — read most of a whole series in a few week, ok, maybe in a few months, during the first of the pandemic and shut-in existence, but a character in a book introduced me to this author, and being smarter, now, I started at the beginning with this series.

It is mostly set in a London that I remember, a little grimy, gritty, with an essence that a very Dickens-like street urchin would pop up at any minute, “Sweep your chimney, guv?” Done, of course, in perfect Cockney accent. Halfway through the last book, London Rules, the whole series finally fell into place, in my mind, other than absurdly clever plotting, it is either satire, black comedy, espionage-thriller, or a commentary on the current state of politics, especially in the UK.

I’m not sure.

“For it has secrets: like every building in every city, Slough House is a neuron in an urban hippocampus, and retains the echo of all it’s seen and heard.” Page 9.

Just part of setting that British tone, and why I suspect satire. At what point does a volume of work subsume itself?

“That, and a bone-bred pessimism: if you expected things to get worse, history would prove you right.” Page 39.

Time and again. Hashtag “justsayin’.”

Watching the weirdly addictive “Killing Eve,” from the venerable beeb (BBC)? At one point, one of the characters (played by the remarkable Fiona Shaw) suggests, with a shrug, “London Rules,“ and I don’t recall the rest of the interaction. Still, the show’s noir essence, and the way the Slough House novels all run together? It fits. Whether this is a construct of a fictive universe, or a thing, I’ll never know. The plotting and pacing is deftly different from an American counterpart, as novels go.

Curious, as an aside, about the language. A “biro” in England is a “bic” — short for “bic pen” in American. A name’s trademark name that comes into commonplace usage. The pervasive nature of English Literature, though, the terms? Texas is 260,000 square miles, maybe more. England is 50,000 square miles (source: Wikipedia). I consume enough British material, I understand, and yet, throughout most of the world, it would seem, “biro” is more common. Unsure of my direction, it does explain one reason this material seems so sharp yet defies a typical taxonomy — in my mind.

As number six In the series, is that a connection?

By the end there seemed like a few series pieces left in place, but the body count is getting higher.

Weirdly engaging, for me, a version and descriptions of land, I knew, part myth, part fact, all very British in its imagery.

The overarching story is interesting, layered between plain, old fashioned European politics, espionage, double and triple crosses, and then?

Joe Country – Mick Herron

Joe Country (Slough House)


  1. Slow Horses
  2. Dead Lions
  3. Real Tigers
  4. Spook Street
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