The List by Mick Herron

In anticipation of Mick Herron’s US release of London Rules, the fifth book in his Slough House series, I’m doing a re-read of the first four books. The short story The List appeared between Dead Lions and Real Tigers in 2015. Read more on other Slough House books here.

Dieter was long retired from the world of spooks, but there were protocols to be observed. When a spy passes, his cupboards need clearing out.

The List was a short story released to promote the upcoming release of Nobody Walks, Herron’s Slough House adjacent novel that shares some peripheral characters. It follows the fallout when a retired asset’s recent passing reveals him to have been not quite as out of the game as everyone may have thought.

Along the way we get a bit deeper look at the world of Herron’s MI5 outside of Slough House. We meet a couple of new characters – John Bachelor, who has managed to screw up the spy equivalent of a “milk run” and is now left to scramble, and JK Coe, new to MI5 and still figuring out which way is up. Coe will reappear in the Slough House related Nobody Walks as well as popping up in future Slough House books so reading this novella is a nice introduction. It’s also fun to see Diana Taverner at work. Along with Sun Tsu and Machiavelli she should be on the Mount Rushmore of wily political operators.

Characters –

Dieter Hess – Retired Cold War asset, currently deceased. Still managing to cause heartburn for his handler.

John Bachelor- A babysitter for old assets, he finds himself in the soup when one of his charges turns up dead.

Diana “Lady Di” Taverner – The iron fist of MI5 who is missing her the velvet glove.

JK Coe – Banker turned member of MI5, he’s a babe in the woods compared to cynicism and wilyness that his colleagues show.

Jackson Lamb – The famous, or infamous depending on who you ask, Cold War spy.

Molly Doran – Keeper of the secrets that MI5 prefers to stay buried, she seems to live in the basement of Regents Park with her files.

Memorable Quotes –

Lamb, setting the bar high for any future James Bond actors –

He reached for his glass, balanced it on his chest, … craned his head forward, caught the rim of his glass in his teeth, and easing his head back again, allowed the contents of the glass to pour into his mouth. He swallowed, then set the glass back on his chest. “When Daniel Craig can do that,” he said, “tell him to give me a ring.”

Diana Taverner getting straight to the heart of the problem, as usual –

“It’s hardly Tinker, Tailor, John. You wipe their noses, feed their cats, make sure they’re not blowing their pensions on internet poker, and—and I really didn’t think this needed emphasising—and above all, make sure they don’t have bank accounts they’re not telling us about. You want to take a guess as to why that’s so important?

Coe contemplating how he’d ended up working for MI5 –

Like any boy, he’d once harboured fantasies of being a spy. The fact that here in grown-up life, the opportunity actually existed—that there was a number you could ring!—offered a glimmer of light in what had become, far sooner than he’d been expecting, a wearisome way of making a living. It turned out that a psychology degree and a background in investment banking fitted Five’s profile of desirable candidates. That’s what Coe had been told, anyway. It was possible they said that sort of thing a lot.


Dieter Hess’ flat is located in St. Albans, a commuter suburb just outside of London. He lived in a slowly decaying apartment just off the railroad into London. We also visit various pubs and cemeteries local to the town.

In addition to places like Slough House and the Herron’s fictional MI5 headquarters by Regent’s Park, we stop by a local MI5 watering hole just off Great Portland Street.

For the Collector

The book was released as an inexpensive ebook as well as a trade paperback in the US. I saw the same US edition in London when I visited and it appears that although John Murray, the UK publisher, updated the ebook cover they did not release a new print version. Each includes a short preview of Nobody Walks.


Although not essential, this story does set up some other characters you’ll seen in future books and offers up a nice little twist that makes it worth reading.

Next up is a look at book 2.75 in the Slough House series – Nobody Walks.

12 thoughts on “The List by Mick Herron

  1. Pingback: Dead Lions by Mick Herron – Spy Write

  2. Pingback: Nobody Walks by Mick Herron – Spy Write

  3. Pingback: Real Tigers by Mick Herron – Spy Write

  4. Pingback: The Drop by Mick Herron – Spy Write

  5. John Hargreaves

    if you are collector you will probably be aware of the Waterstones Special Edition of London Rules published in the UK 1/2/18 with the short story The List at the back of that book.. To my knowledge this is first print of the book in the UK, NOT all the Waterstones 1st editions had this addition, the special edition had a seperate ISBN 9781473682818

    1. Ah, interesting! I don’t know if I knew that. I’ll have to check my copy. I can’t remember if I got the Waterstones version or bought it from Goldsboro Books. I did get the special edition of Joe Country with the new short story. I’m assuming you picked that up?

    2. Jeff Quest

      Hmm. Finally checked my copy and it has the same ISBN but no short story. So it’ll be a bit trickier to find.

  6. Ted

    Only recently discovered Mick Herron (following a good review of Slough House in the ST).

    Very enjoyable indeed.Currently working my way through the books and reading Spook Street at the moment.

    I wonder if I can ask for some help.

    1). Does The List finish with:

    “””A fresh crowd enveloped Hannah Weiss. Deep inside its beating heart, she hugged secret knowledge to herself”.

    I realise it is a novella but this seems a strangely abrupt ending and I wondered if my ebook had been curtailed in some way.

    2) JK Coe appears in The List and then crops up again in Spook Street. Although there is some small explanation I can’t help think that I have missed something somewhere. Should I have read Nobody walks first?

    Any advice gratefully received and rewarded with virtual beers.

    1. Ted, Thanks for checking out the site. In regards to your questions – 1. Yes, that was the last line. It was somewhat setting up her future story. 2. While you don’t need to read Nobody Walks, it does offer some crucial backstory on how he goes from an eager new hire to a broken MI5 agent. So if your curious, I’d recommend reading NW before Spook Street.
      If you’re curious to hear more about the books feel free to listen to my podcast on the series, Barbican Station. It’s in all podcast apps or here –
      Happy reading! Jeff

      1. Ted

        Many thanks Jeff.

        Unfortunately I have nearly finished Spook Street but will read NW before London Rules.

        I realise (now) that I should have done that as Coe didn’t appear in Real Tigers.

        I will check out the podcasts. Site is already bookmarked.

        I am also a huge fan of JLC and will check your entries on him soonish. Not just my favourite spy writer but on of my favourite modern British authors full stop. Bit sad a few weeks ago TBH. Not sure if I mourn his passing more than Ian Banks.

        Have you ever read any of the Laundry File novels of Charles Stross? They started out as a secret agent (more than actual spy)/civil service bureaucracy/horror sequence of novels. I enjoyed the agent/bureaucracy bit more than the horror bits (although the latter is merely a peg to hang the former on.

        I like the London locations part of your reviews. I am pretty familiar with London but with books set in Russia etc it takes me ages to read them as I spend so much time on Google maps looking at the locations.

        Sorry, just thought of another question. Does it make sense to read the three novellas in sequence?

      2. Ted, Yes, I have read some of the Laundry files. I enjoyed the first couple but haven’t gotten back to them since then. For the novellas, you could probably read The Drop right after The List, but I’d wait until after reading Joe Country to read The Catch. Definitely read The Drop before reading Joe Country though as that book builds on the first two novellas.

  7. Ted


    Thank you once again.

    It can be difficult working through a series of novels which is vaguely linear but which has various offshoots and diversions. I am now reading Nobody walks and Dame Ingrid has shown up, despite having already been elbowed in my internal chronology. Still, I suppose the benefit of fiction is the suspension of reality.

    You have clarified it for me. So many thanks.

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