Smiert spionam. Death to Spies. It’s straight out of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale.

But SLOUGH HOUSE is not a James Bond adventure, rather the next best thing, or to some, the better thing, while we wait for the next oft postponed 007 cinematic saga.

The seventh in the series concerning a section of secret service stuff-ups, SLOUGH HOUSE begins in James Bond style with the book equivalent of a pre-title sequence that is simply thrilling and all too plausible.

With a plot device ripped from the headlines, SLOUGH HOUSE writhes and wriggles and seethes with the recent employment of poisons by the Russian security services to perceived enemies of the state, both within its own borders and abroad.

And even though the Slow Horses, the appellation given to the operatives of Slough House have been erased from British Secret Service records, the Russians seem to be working from old intelligence and therefore does not protect them from being targeted.

Author Mick Herron knows the secret of the narrative art, working up to a climax at the end of each chapter, unrelenting and unrelieved, juggling plot, character and zinger observations which holds the reader hostage and compels them to press on.

Utterly disgraceful and highly enjoyable, the slovenly principal of Slough House, Jackson Lamb continues to command his band of espionage errorists while happily trammelling political correctness – chain smoking, farting, belching, and generally being vulgar in word and deed.

This not so civil servant of Her Majesty’s Secret Service nevertheless gets the job done, not afraid to to offend in the defence of the realm.

Poison, paranoia, the global pandemic of populist politicians and the privatisation of public assets and security provide the panoply of plot in a spy story that is astute, acerbic and exhilarating.

SLOUGH HOUSE, as are its six antecedents, is altogether a thriller deluxe, tense, ice cold, sophisticated and laugh out loud funny.

SLOUGH HOUSE by Mick Herron is published by John Murray.