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The Secret Hours


The Secret Hours

If you are a fan of “Slow Horses” starring Oscar winner Gary Oldman, then you will be pleased to know that the hit Apple TV+ series came from the fertile mind of Mick Herron.

Herron’s Slough House mysteries have long been a stalwart of the modern-day spy novel and has grown a legion of like-minded readers across the globe. Now, with the release of his latest book, THE SECRET HOURS, he brings his audience and hopefully many newcomers a stand-alone effort that is guaranteed to please.

"THE SECRET HOURS is light, snappy and intense all at once and instantly will call to mind other espionage novels by the likes of John le Carré."

In the opening chapter, we meet Max Janáček, whose North Devon cottage is being infiltrated by a team of unknown assailants. Max is a retired academic who just wants to spend an evening settling down with a Dickens novel. But he gets a jump on the home invasion and is able to escape his abode before they can find him and possibly do bad things to him. He first stuns the female leader of the party by bashing her head into his kitchen floor. Then he turns the tables on some of her cohorts who arrive via motorbike and car. Readers will enjoy this thrilling opening but will wonder the entire time who Max really is and why this is happening to him.

To shed some light on these events, we need to step back two years earlier when an aggressive Prime Minister went after what was referred to as the notoriously over-reaching British Secret Service. This led to the birth of Operation Monochrome. At the heart of this government inquiry are two civil servants, Griselda Fleet and Malcolm Kyle. They are extremely efficient and dedicated to the project but are about to go head-to-head with a formidable superspy with capabilities they are completely clueless about.

Known merely as First Desk, this superspy is the best MI5 has to offer, and no internal or external inquiry has been able to take her down yet. First Desk and her team of expert spies run circles around Griselda and Malcolm, and Monochrome crashes and burns around them. Now, with the pair having to watch from the sidelines as their mission is uprooted, a last-minute gift falls into their laps that could turn everything around and save Monochrome.

Details about a 1994 classified spy mission set in Berlin uncovers a myriad of scandal and embarrassment that the spooks have attempted to move away from and keep buried permanently. Now, our proud civil servants are on the brink of exposing this travesty of a mission. By bringing it to light, they could rewrite the past 30 years of spy game history as it exists in the UK.

THE SECRET HOURS is light, snappy and intense all at once and instantly will call to mind other espionage novels by the likes of John le Carré. It delivers from start to finish and effectively demonstrates why Mick Herron is one of the best in the business when it comes to spy thrillers.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on September 15, 2023

The Secret Hours
by Mick Herron

  • Publication Date: September 12, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime
  • ISBN-10: 164129521X
  • ISBN-13: 9781641295215