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No Rutgers Sports? Here’s a series of novels to check out: Slough House by Mick Herron

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NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Tournament-Rutgers vs Michigan Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

So, like everyone else, I’ve been kind of lost without sports. Especially when the NCAA Tournament is supposed to be going on.

I’ve spent time watching Rutgers highlights, of course, but I’ve also been reading. And, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know there’s a series of books I’m currently obsessed with.

Mick Herron writes a spy novel series he calls the Slough House novels. The Slough House (Slow Horses) is where disgraced English MI-5 spies are sent when they can’t be fired. The books are fast paced, hilarious and full of great characters.

The head of the group is Jackson Lamb. Lamb is kind of like Smiley in the John LeCarre novels if Smiley farted a lot and made a bunch of off color comments to his underlings. Lamb is the key to the series, as he is not only the leader of the Slow Horses, but is a former Cold War spy and a good one. We don’t know much about Lamb, beyond his affinity for scotch, scathing comments and naps, but he is compelling beause of that.

The next two key characters are Catherine Standish, a former alcoholic who pushes Lamb to annoyance. And River Cartwright, a spy who accidentally shut down a tub station during a terrorist drill. These are the characters you want to see again and again, along with the rest of the horses—all hilariously competent and incompetent in equal ways.

What’s most impressive to me is how Herron keeps the series sustainable. This shouldn’t be a series, just a one off because who wants to read about a bunch of failures—ones who are kept away from the main action. But under Herron’s masterful hand, each plot makes the most sense for why the horses are involved. Whether they are being played or Lamb is connected to someone from his Cold War days, the Slow Horses are the only ones who can save the day.

And they often do.

So, while we’re all cooped up and wishing to watch basketball, this is a series to check out. Start at the beginning. I did back in the fall and was immediately hooked. I have all the other novels on my shelf. I’m through the first three: Slow Horses, Dead Lions and Real Tigers—and I would read the next three tomorrow if I could. I’m trying to spread them out because Herron isn’t writing as fast as I can read.

That’s okay. Pretty soon I’ll visit with Lamb and crew again.