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If Moscow rules meant watch your back, London rules meant cover your arse. Moscow rules had been written on the streets, but London Rules were devised in the corridors of Westminster, and the short version read: someone always pays. Make sure it isn’t you. Nobody knew that better than Jackson Lamb. And nobody played it better than Di Taverner.
from: Slow Horses
The Modern World of Spooks
Novels about spooks are captivating, especially when dealing with the prime league i. e. GB’s spooks. There is the gloomy atmosphere of Cold War espionage in the 60s and 70s created by John Le Carré as well as the glamorous life of James Bond illustrated by Ian Fleming. A touch of reality was added by Stella Remington, a former MI5 director, when writing about Liz Carlyle.
There are much more, but now there is Jackson Lamb.
Jackson Lamb doesn’t have his office residence in Regent’s Park where the crème de la crème of MI5 works. He has his personal residence in Slough House, somewhere … in London. He is the master resp. demigod of a handful of MI5 agents with special tasks.
Sounds good? Well …
Nobody knows exactly why Jackson Lamb ended up in Slough House – at least it isn’t revealed during the first five/six novels. There are only hints. He may have killed somebody, decades ago, tolerated by MI5 – or even ordered by MI5. Maybe something went wrong so that he got his job at Slough House and his private team. He seems satisfied within his little kingdom.
His team consists of MI5 agents who screwed up. Each member has his/her personal secret about why ending up at Slough House – and restricted from entering Mi5 headquarters any longer. Of course Jackson Lamb knows all about it. He is top-class interconnected with all levels of MI5, often more by knowing some personal secrets of anybody than …
Back to the team: they are called Slow Horses by anybody in MI5 because they messed up. However, they didn’t mess up so critically that they would have been fired. They can work quietly at Slough House searching something in data bases, delivering statistics and useless reports – it is secured that they cannot blunder anymore because all they do is – irrelevant and tossed into the bin i. e. shredded by headquarters. They don’t have access to any secret or top-secret information or operations.
Bit by bit it comes out that someone or other was kicked into Slough House intentionally by some bigwig at MI5 because of having information – if aware or unknowingly – about whatever in present or past that might stop the bigwig’s career. Sometimes it seems sufficient to have asked for critical information – although innocent – hidden in MI5’s archives.
So there is Jackson Lamb and his Slow Horses – all good for nothing.
Jackson Lamb is a pain in the arse. He adopted a big basket full of bad behaviour like yelling at his team, twitting his team, being sexist, telling lies or keeping facts back … all day long gulping snacks, belching and farting, fiddling with his fly … Otherwise he cares for his team – securing that they get help when it gets dangerous.
How can there be any dangerous situation for any team member? With regard to their daily work sitting at a desk?
The team is unhappy and looks for any possibility to escape and start some action. Nor spoiling so far, but they always manage to get involved into some critical operation. So there is also a certain death toll. (Be sure there are always replacements rather soon!)
At the end the Slow Horses always manage to solve some critical operation into success – only, they don’t benefit from it: they stay at Slough House … and Jackson Lamb continues harassing them.
So far Slough House … and the rest of MI5?
MI5 is degenerated into a club of careerists, controlled by politics and personal power. Anybody wants to succeed concerning his/her personal position. To reach any personal goals they stick at nothing, are ready for any trench warfare and any type of plots.
The modern world of spooks isn’t any longer glamorous nor depressing filled with assiduous public servants – it resembles more a modern enterprise where anybody seeks his personal advantage and connections and information rule the firm.