Novella: The Marylebone Drop by Mick Herron

Damn, is Mick Herron ever good at this stuff. The infectious groove of reading London Rules propelled me straight into the next Slough House release, The Marylebone Drop (2018), one of a number of “bonus” interstitial novellas that shares the Slough House universe, but comes at it from a different angle. As it turns out, this one is something of a direct sequel to The List, following on from that nifty tale’s ending, intimating that the novella series—recently collected in the omnibus Standing by the Wall (2023)—may in fact work as a stitch-up mosaic.

As in The List, a key figure in hard-luck John Bachelor, an agent of the British secret service. Unlike the denizens of Slough House, Bachelor is still in good standing—but only by the skin of his teeth. He may not be working for Jackson Lamb, but he’s dealing with his own form of ostracism: the service has downgraded him to part-time status, his wife has dumped him, and he’s on the verge of homelessness. Still, Bachelor serves as a case officer for numerous ex-assets from the Cold War era, most of them no longer useful but who still need looking after. One of Bachelor’s joes is Solomon Dortmund, a retired gentleman who sets the ball rolling when—while idly people-watching in a café—he witnesses what he’s convinced is a brush pass. Bachelor is leary of Dortmund’s claim, thinking the old man may be seeing things or nostalgically attempting to insert meaning into his retirement. Of course, Dortmund did witness an actual drop, so when Bachelor undertakes a half-assed investigation, he unleashes a chain of events that culminates in intrigue, tragedy…and perhaps, by chance and misfortune, a new recruit for Slough House.

Swiftly read, smart, and funny, The Marylebone Drop is another great Herron yarn in this series—or sub-series, perhaps, a secret side history running alongside the Slough House “A story.” While I’m reading the novellas in the release sequence, I suspect one could easily pick up Standing by the Wall and read the interstitials without any continuity issues. But I can’t imagine why you would, when you could just as easily go back to Slow Horses and work your way through this glorious, epic series of spy fiction from the beginning. Man, I love this stuff.

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