Review: Mick Herron's 11 stories in Dolphin Junction are a treat for thriller fans

Just in time for summer reading in Australia, Mick Herron's publishers have gathered together, in Dolphin Junction, 11 of his short stories.

Herron has been writing crime fiction since 2003. His early novels, which featured Zoe Boehm, an Oxford private detective, had limited commercial success. However, in 2010, with Slow Horses he began a series of spy novels about disgraced MI5 agents who have been exiled to Slough House. The second in the series Dead Lions (2013) won the CWA Gold Dagger Award and the rest is history.

To date, there are eight novels and three novellas about the Slow Horses and their grossly enigmatic, politically incorrect boss Jackson Lamb, a ruthless pragmatist who protects his Slow Horses against all-comers.

In his acknowledgements in Dolphin Junction, Herron comments,

"Novels . . . tend to bully their way centre stage; short stories require encouragement if they're not to fade away into 'might-have-beens'." Dolphin Junction ensures that these 11 stories will reach more readers and not fade away.

Three of the stories feature Zoe Boehm and her hapless partner and husband, Joe Silvermann. In the most intriguing, "Mirror Images", a crime writer is haunted by a character he had had assassinated in a story written 16 years before.

In the disturbing title story, David will not believe his wife has left him, even though she's left a note telling him, "I love you. But it's over". He's convinced she's been kidnapped. His desperate search will however have unexpected and horrifying consequences.

For Jackson Lamb fans, "The Last Dead Letter Drop" reveals an incident from his past. Lamb meets Molly Doran in the Spooks Chapel where plaques on the wall commemorate those who died in "joe country" and whose bodies have never been found. The wall is known as the Last Dead Letter Drop. Molly has asked Lamb to meet her to shed light on "one of the mysteries that haunted her archive"; a tale of love and betrayal in Cold War Berlin. But which of the players in the story is Lamb?

There was even a heart-warming story for Christmas in "The Usual Santas". Whiteoaks shopping centre is so enormous that at Christmas they need eight Santas in eight grottoes. Traditionally on Christmas Eve, the eight Santas gather to relax and exchange stories as they celebrate over food and drink. They stay in costume and only call each other Santa. One Christmas Eve, however, they realise their number has grown to nine.

Dolphin Junction showcases all of Herron's wit and dark humour, his satirical tone and his propensity for unexpected endings. It's a treat.

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This story Stories of wit, dark humour and slow horses first appeared on The Canberra Times.