Slow Horses and Whitehall Masters

Not least among the diverse pleasures of a crime series is its ability to chronicle contemporary events with vivid novelistic immediacy. As readers, we feel we are being rushed behind the headlines and given an enhanced perspective on what we think we know, especially when, as in the case of London Rules (John Murray, £14.99), Mick Herron’s superb new Jackson Lamb thriller set among the broken-down operatives – the “Slow Horses” – of MI5, what we think we know is not a great deal.

So when Herron has the beleaguered head of MI5, Claude Whelan, reflect that “one of the unforeseen consequences of Brexit . . . was that it had elevated to positions of undue prominence any number of nasty little toerags”, our unexpected identification with a spymaster feels like an intimate treat. The specific toerag Whelan has in mind is Dennis Gimball MP, whose wife is a

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