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Slow Horses

(Slough House #1)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  13,875 ratings  ·  1,660 reviews
The first book in CWA Gold Dagger Award-winning British espionage series starring a team of MI5 agents united by one common bond: They've screwed up royally and will do anything to redeem themselves.

London, England: Slough House is where the washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what's left of their failed careers. The "slow horses," as they’re called, have all disgraced t
ebook, (Adobe EPUB, OverDrive Read, supports Kindle), 320 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Soho Crime
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Bill Lynas
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
James I think the thing to understand is that Slough, the real town, has a reputation as being a miserable place to go - drab, dreary, boring. Within the no…moreI think the thing to understand is that Slough, the real town, has a reputation as being a miserable place to go - drab, dreary, boring. Within the novel you get a report of a very brief conversation between two unknown characters in the past, discussing a spy who has been disgraced. I don't have the book to hand, but it's something along the lines of "Where's he been sent? Slough?" "As good as."
So someone suggests that Slough would be a place someone might be sent as punishment... it turns out they haven't been sent to literal Slough, but to a posting just as bad. We're told that, based on this conversation, the nickname 'Slough House', for this particular posting, takes off.(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  13,875 ratings  ·  1,660 reviews

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Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well I have to give this book five stars because I read it in one day when I should have been doing other things, and now I really want to move straight into book 2

Not just another mystery/thriller, Slow Horses is totally original in style and content. The main characters are apparently a bunch of losers and misfits which made it all the more exciting when they tried to pull together and achieve something. And of course from the reader's perspective it was anyone's guess if and when they were ev
Veronica ⭐️
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, 2017
Slow Horses is Herron’s first book in the Slough House series, recently re-released in conjunction with the release of book 4, Spook Street.

After a mission gone terribly wrong River Cartwright is sent to Slough House, a place where tasks that didn’t matter were preformed by people that didn’t care. Where alongside a pre-digital overflow of paperwork, a post-useful crew of misfits can be stored and left to gather dust.

The story is told with a wry wit, in metaphors, retrospect and hypotheticals w
“Always, in railway stations, there was this sense of pent-up movement. A crowd was an explosion waiting to happen. People were fragments. They just didn’t know it yet.”

This is not only spooks and spies and intrigue (and it definitely is all that), it is very funny and entertaining! It’s also a wonderful combination of old school sleuthing and networking and never burning bridges (well, not completely) and brave-new-world technology like CCTV mobile (cell) phones and database hacking. All wrap
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book in the Slough House series. I have meant to try this series for a long while and, now that I have finally got around to starting it, I am sure I will be reading on. Author Mick Herron has taken the traditional spy story, given it a unique slant and, with many nods to classic spy novels, has created his own world; sly, darkly funny and utterly British.

Slough House is the dumping ground for members of the intelligence service who have messed up. Rather than sack them, those
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm so glad I finally got around to reading the opening novel of this series. Friends kept telling me how good it was and boy were they right!

I loved the writing - wry and sharp, often darkly humorous and deprecating of the failed spies from MI5 who end up at the bottom of the heap, the so-called 'slow horses' working at London's Slough House. They've all done something irrecoverable and cringe-worthy, from leaving classified information on a train to spectacularly failing a terrorist training
May 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book 1 in the Slough House series published 2015.

5 stars for something special.

After having read so many positive reviews of this book I was expecting an entertaining read but what I wasn’t expecting was to be totally gob smacked.
This takes the spy/spook genre and makes that world accessible and relatable.

The slow horses are failed MI5 spooks who, whilst they can’t be fired from the service they have become persona non grata to the powers that be. As a result they now find themselves in Slough H
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a pretty clever book. Slough House is an old derelict building. Its occupants are slow horses, spies who have screwed up in various ways and been demoted. They are essentially paper pushers doing mundane work. They are a motley crew who are not friends, very suspicious, always alert and aware, and bitter. When one of them is sent on a field op, albeit just to pick up a bag of trash outside a disgraced journalist's home, mental alarms begin going off. They are never let out in the field. ...more
Sep 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Story - 4 Stars, Audio Performance - 2 stars
This is the first in a series involving intelligence agents that have been banished to “Slough House” for their misdeeds. They are all bitter over being sent away from Regents Park and would do anything to get back into the real action.

It’s not a fast paced book. A third of the book is gone before anything big happens. It’s actually a pretty convoluted plot. When it finally takes off, it grabbed me. Who to trust? The nefarious plan is mind boggling. “
Bill Kupersmith
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

After River Cartwright made several wrong decisions - or someone laid the blame squarely on his shoulders - he was told to report at Slough House, the place all misfits, rogues, and unreliables were sent to lick their wounds while working at mundane tasks. The boredom was horrific; the anger at what had happened ate at River, day in and day out...

Jackson Lamb, boss of the slow horses (those same has-been spies from MI5) didn't seem to garner respect from any of the people under his command
Manda Scott
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So.... I listened to BBC Radio 4 Front Row last night, and there was Mick Herron, talking about his Slow Horses series and he mentioned Len Deighton who was one of my writing heroes in my youth... and the wonder of e-living is that I was able to download it on the Kindle and ... lose an evening. I know something of this standard is a year's hard writing and there's something sacrilegious about reading it in slightly under 6 hours, but Mick, if you're reading this and it's any consolation, I swit ...more
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the 1st book in the 'Slough House' series by author Mick Herron. Slough House is a dumping ground for British intelligence agents who have messed up a case. The "slow horses," are given menial tasks rather than be trusted on bigger cases. This is the second book I have read from this series having inadvertently started reading this series with the second book. I hesitated starting this book having not been completely blown away by the first book., but found this one personally a lot more ...more
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4-stars and a bit. You can tell from the start that this is going to be good. Herron is a good writer, and this is the first in his "Slough House" (Slough as in "Ow!"). This is Quality writing. Fewer than one book in ten that I read is this good. Lots of worthwhile quotes below...

As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary of the book. Thank you.

From the start, there is a very "Le Carré" feeling here, a feeling of wrecked lives in situations and characters. If you
Jul 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
I have probably been a little sniffy going into this British spy novel. Its not my usual genre. I have never read John le Carre or taken a great interest in the politics of MI5. But on reflection I think this is a reasonably good start to a spy series. Slow Horses has a really strong premise and it's a great introduction to some characters that I think will grow nicely in future books. Although the ins and outs of being a 'spook' doesn't greatly interest me, I do like an underdog story. The 'slo ...more
Sharon Bolton
Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
River Cartwright made a big mistake. As big as they come. Heading up an MI5 operation to apprehend a known terrorist, River made the wrong call. Or maybe he was fed the wrong information. That’s what he claims, but it makes no difference. The Op goes badly wrong, and River’s career hits the pan.

Fortunately for River he has connections. His grandfather is one of the most famous and revered ‘spooks’ of all time, and sacking his much-loved grandson isn’t really on the cards. So River, rather than
Maxine (Booklover Catlady)
I was thrilled when I had my wish granted by the Publisher via NetGalley to read this book. I was expecting some great thrills. Sadly I got to 40% through and just felt like I was going nowhere with this one. The first chapter and opening had seemed really promising but this one just did not float my boat.

With quite an unusual writing style this book may be one of those that some indeed love and adore. It's certainly not a terrible book. I just could not get into it and wondered where it was go
K.J. Charles
John Le Carre meets Christopher Brookmyre. I didn't think I was going to like this because it starts off with unremitting shabby miserable bleakness as we set up the hopeless failures of Slough House and the rotten amoral secret service they belong to. But then the plot picks up, and the fun starts as the team pull themselves together. I am definitely going for more of these, massively enjoyable, also pretty tense as the author is not afraid to kill or betray his characters. ...more
Judith E
Apr 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: espionage
You’ll need to sit up straight and pay attention to understand what’s really going on in this smart and twisty spy story. It takes a chunk at the beginning for the author to set up characters, time, and place, but it’s a wonderful mix that’s fast paced and action filled.

I loved the author’s creation of the enigmatic characters of Jackson Lamb and River Cartwright and their work assignment at a MI5 bureau that has gone slack. The revelation of their past lives and their humorous personalities ke
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
River Cartwright is following the family tradition, serving his country by joining MI5. All is going well until a spectacular stuff-up during an assessment exercise sees him relegated to the 'Slow Horses' of Slough House; where agents are sent to work on non-operational tasks until they either die of boredom or quietly resign.

That was the true purpose of Slough House. It was a way of losing people without having to get rid of them, sidestepping legal hassle and tribunal threats.

The Slow Horses a
Jun 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to Wanda by: CBC radio
Probably more like 3.5 stars

This was an excellent "it's too hot to think too hard" summer book. If you are into spy fiction, you will probably enjoy this novel.

The slow horses are the intelligence agents who have screwed up big time and have been exiled to Slough House to grind away at boring statistical tasks until they quit or die.

When River Cartwright gets a small surveillance task to perform, he actually starts paying attention to the currents flowing around him and notices a lot of details
Sep 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Far too self consciously clever for my liking. His style came across as over worked and contrived. The characters left me cold, I formed no relationship with any of them. But I can appreciate the complexity of the plot although, for me, the constant flitting between strands detracted from the flow. The fact that River followed his grandfather into intelligence and that they openly discussed other agents stretched credulity. All in all, not my cup of tea.
May 23, 2019 rated it liked it
I started this & gave up after an hour. I came back to it a few days later & made it all the way through, but it was a slog at times. While there is a very thrilling, fairly gritty story, it is caked in layers of info dumps about characters, repetitious maunderings over the past, & other bits of padding. The author is never content to draw a character, he has to come back & paint further layers on them, sometimes the same ones. That's not always a bad thing as the cast is large, but I could have ...more
Mar 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
Don't waist your time. The premise was good in theory but it failed in credibility. The plot was practically non existent. There is so much character development that by the time the author circles back to the character you've already forgotten who he or she was in the first place. The main character only shows up every 10 pages or so. I will give the author credit for dialogue but it's few and far between. SLOW HORSES failed to even leave the gate for me. ...more
Mar 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Slow Horses is the first novel in the Slough House series by British author, Mick Herron. Slough House is a repository for inconvenient or incompetent spooks: the spies who have caused embarrassment by leaving a sensitive disc in a tube station or had an affair with the Venezuelan ambassador’s wife, or closed down Kings Cross Station in a training exercise. The “Slow Horses” are banished from Regent’s Park to Slough House where the hope is to bore the dead weights into jumping ship, to get them ...more
Maureen DeLuca
2.5 - 3. 0 - I so tried to like this book - I wanted to like this book - I just couldn't get into it..... I MAY try to read book number 2 - OK... I'll give number 2 a shot , cause I like the idea of this book - but not this book. Am I making any sense??? :-/ ...more
Ari Levine
Nov 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Sharp dialogue, clever plotting, totally entertaining.
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was looking for a series to fill the John Le Carré’s Smiley-sized hole in my world of literature, and so I followed up a strong recommendation from GoodReads friend Susan to try some Mick Herron, and I’m very glad I did.

The "slow horses" of the book’s title are the intelligence workers at "Slough House" (sounds like slow horse, geddit?), an anonymous building where disgraced and fallen spies are sent to undertake menial and soul destroying tasks until they either resign or retire.

Whilst aspe
Sebastien Castell
Oct 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: thriller, mystery
I have a huge fondness for books about friendship, underdogs, and groups of misfits coming together. Slow Horses has that in spades, with its team of MI5 rejects, consigned to the forgotten heap that is Slough House – the building where agents who’ve royally screwed up find themselves. With that in mind, I would’ve expected to love Slow Horses, but in the end, I didn’t quite get there.

Mick Herron’s cast of characters are truly pitiable folks, but each has their own redeeming quality, and it’s sa
Julie Davis
Julie left a top secret recipe on the bus and Scott spectacularly screwed up a training exercise, which is why their new office is in Slough House next to the other slow horses. They have to whisper to talk about Slow Horses because they don't want Lamb to hear. Episode 131 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Original review below.


Slow Horses builds from the idea that the punishment for spies who have failed at their jobs is to send them to Slough House where they do paperwork. The id
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars
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Mick Herron was born in Newcastle and has a degree in English from Balliol College, Oxford. He is the author of six books in the Slough House series as well as a mystery series set in Oxford featuring Sarah Tucker and/or P.I. Zoë Boehm. He now lives in Oxford and works in London.

Other books in the series

Slough House (8 books)
  • Dead Lions (Slough House, #2)
  • Real Tigers (Slough House, #3)
  • Spook Street (Slough House, #4)
  • London Rules (Slough House, #5)
  • Joe Country (Slough House #6)
  • Slough House (Slough House, #7)
  • Bad Actors (Slough House #8)

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