Standing by the Wall: A Slough House Interlude

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Standing by the Wall: A Slough House Interlude

Standing by the Wall: A Slough House Interlude

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The first thing to say is that, 'Standing by the Wall' is exactly what it is listed as - an interlude in the Slough House world. Yes, it is also a short story set partly during Christmas Eve, but festivity is always in short supply in the world of the Slow Horses. This is not for the casual reader. It does not act as an introduction to the characters and that is something to be aware of. If you consider any of the novellas (my version had only the title story in it, but assuming you have the collected version) as a road into the main series, you will be disappointed. If, however, like me, you have read all the books associated with the series many times and are familiar with the characters, then this is a teaser into the next novel, complete with title and release date, but no spoilers from me.

The book is designated “an interlude” and it’s an apt description. It’s meant for those who are already fans. This is definitely not an intro to the series, no matter what the advertising says. Starting with these stories would probably do more to dissuade someone from reading the series than encouraging them. Here in Slough House, the intelligence service's home for inept spies, it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. The story also marks the return of [redacted due to spoiler implications] to Slough House in a cameo appearance which likely signals a complete return in the next full length Slough House novel (#9 - 2023?). There is no cameo appearance by John Bachelor from the List/Drop/Catch trilogy of novellas, so no new milkman* and/or milkrun* intrigues are involved.If you have a keen interest in The Slow Horses, this is a book to read. In a single, modestly-sized volume, it gives you an interstitial Slow Horses fix outside of the main series. I was pleased I found it. All the stories were wedged into the long-term plot lines of the series. Note The Last Dead Letter was an exclusive addition found only in the Waterstones signed copy of Joe Country (Slough House #6) and this book. Also, its unclear where this story lies with respect to The Catch and Joe Country, before or after?

I’ve never been a fan of short stories or novellas. It always feels like the author didn’t have a good enough idea for a full fledged book. These novellas didn’t do anything to dissuade me from my belief. Standing by the Wall offers a glimpse into the kind of seasonal merriment you might expect at Slough House, where the boss generally marks the festive season with an increase in hostilities. But then, this is the secret service, not Secret Santa. And the slow horses aren't here to enjoy themselves. Full disclosure, I’m a fan of both the Slow Horses books and TV Series, although the books are better. I'm 'caught-up' and waiting for The Secret Hours (Slough House, #9), which is hinted at in the ending short story of this book. Its strongly recommended that several of the previous books in the series be read before this one. Otherwise, the important, long-term Slow Horses, series plotlines will not be easily understood. Also, if you're not completely caught-up, to at least Slough House (Slough House, #7) this book contains spoilers. Here in Slough House, the intelligence service’s home for inept spies, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.There is the regular comic relief of Roddy Ho thinking of himself as Lamb's No. 2 and the key player of Slough House with his technological wizardry and other tools such as his car the Roddymobile aka The Rodster. The rest of the gang are of course ready to ditch him while heading out for an annual Christmas Eve pub drink. Roddy otherwise plans an evening of watching the films "Die Hard", "Die Hard 2" and "Elf".

Standing by the Wall offers a glimpse into the kind of seasonal merriment you might expect at Slough House, where the boss generally marks the festive season with an increase in hostilities. But then, this is the secret service, not Secret Santa. And the slow horses aren’t here to enjoy themselves. The book contained both novellas and short stories. With serial fiction, many times less is more, since character development is a narrative sunk cost. I found the short stories to be a bit too compressed. Frankly, I came to think that Herron was better at the novella format than the novel format. Its too bad, there isn't a lot of money in novellas, even as serial fiction?One of his assets, Dieter Hess has died of natural causes, but now Regent’s Park has uncovered a bank account that no one knows about, and that needs a closer look. Eventually, Bachelor finds a hand-written coded list that might offer a clue as to what Hess was up to, and whether he was a double agent. Lady Taverner's plots make me want to know what Lamb has on everyone (seriously, how does he survive?) At last in one volume: the collected Slough House spy novellas, including the never-before-published Christmas interlude Standing by the Wall.

The Drop aka The Marylebone Drop sits between London Rules and Joe Country. Solomon Dortmund is an ageing asset, but he hasn’t lost his ability to spot a spook. And in the Fischer café in Marylebone High Street, while enjoying a divine hot chocolate, he sees a drop taking place. He gives all the details to his minder, John Bachelor. But Bachelor’s a bit distracted right now. Meanwhile, Bachelor’s one recruitment success, Hannah Weiss will soon be moved to a position where she will be more useful to Regent’s Park (and maybe the BND too?) at the Brexit Secretary’s office. Typically I ear-read the series' books. Interestingly, having read this as an ebook, Herron's (over)use of his extensive vocabulary was easily remedied with Searches. For example, a banquette was the unknown name for a piece barroom furniture familiar to me. (I'd always thought of it as a "corner booth".) I had two minor problems with this anthology. The Snow White agent long-term plot line that stretched through three of the stories starting with The List didn’t end . This short works plot line was better than some of the main series plot lines. The second was that Standing by the Wall was a prelude to the yet-unpublished The Secret Hours (Slough House, #9). While it didn't contain any spoilers, it reeked of Publisher Marketing.

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