A maelstrom of intrigues, deceits, and canards, BAD ACTORS is arguably the best espionage story you’ll read this year.

The eighth book in Mick Herron’s critically acclaimed and best selling Slough House series of secret service screw-ups, BAD ACTORS takes to the stage with a command of both drama and comedy, with a tincture of tragedy and a frequency of farce.

Beginning with an epigram by Brian Appleyard, “people deceived by bad actors do wicked things for good reasons”, BAD ACTORS proceeds with a curtain raiser of callous sang froid.

Sleeper spies make a bagatelle of reds under the beds as political puppet masters string along vanity vulnerable elected members in misplaced Machiavellian moves.

Superannuated spooks spurred by spectres from the past are reinstated in the field as the white-anting of Whitehall and disintegration of the intelligence services gathers pace.

Over at Slough House, River Cartwright is missing, Shirley Dander is in rehab, Roddy Ho is cos playing and new recruit, Ashley Khan, is quite literally turning up the heat in a contest of comeuppance with Jackson Lamb.

The Slow Horses head, Jackson Lamb, bullshit’s enema number one, chain smoking, fart choking, crotch stroking louche, is again making a horse’s arse of the powers that be.

What often seems to be too implausible turns out to be all too real as Herron delivers a solid, lively thriller, with loads of acerbic wit and wry unromanticised observation.

As we have come to expect, BAD ACTORS is furnished by a fine flair for character and setting, creating a real page turner with first rate suspense, full of dry humour and moist malevolence.

There is little humour darker than this in contemporary thriller writing and fewer funnier. Through splendid splenetic prose and dialogue, jeremiads become jaunty.

BAD ACTORS succeeds in being thoroughly surprising and exceedingly satisfying.

BAD ACTORS by Mick Herron is published by Baskerville .