Burning questions going into Bad Actors

As I did before the release of Slough House, I look at some of the burning questions ahead of the next book. With Bad Actors just a few short days away, I’m ponder what we might see. Read the book and then laugh at my incorrect guesses!

Warning – Spoilers ahead for all books in the series!

  1. What’s up with River? – The most shocking thing coming out of Slough House was the poisoning and apparent death of River Cartwright in the final moments of the novel. Is River really dead? And will Herron reveal this fact early in the book or leave us hanging throughout? My money is on River’s survival but that the Herron doesn’t let us off the hook that easily by telling us quickly.
  2. Diana Taverner’s deals with the Devil – Lady Di has always played it close to the edge in her bid to lead the service, but now that she’s there, some of those chickens have come home to roost. Whether it’s working with Peter Judd to secure secret funding or back room calls to her Russian counterpart, it’s likely she’ll face consequences she’s managed to squirm out of until now.
  3. Who will die? – Herron has recently landed on an every other book pattern for the deaths of his slow horses. If River survived the last book, that pattern would mean one of them is on the chopping block in Bad Actors. Who will it be? My feelings are that Lamb, Standish, Louisa and Ho are safe. When it comes to the others, scarred Alec seems possible but I’d imagine Herron could squeeze another book out of his trials and tribulations. Shirley Dander seems especially in the danger zone. I love Shirley but she’s managed a seven book run. Has her time finally run out?
  4. Peter Judd – In the book series he’s bounced in and out of power but with his thinly veiled real life counterpart now in 10 Downing Street, in which direction will Herron take him? He’s done more to differentiate Judd from Johnson and I suspect he will continue that trend.
  5. John Bachleor – John Bachleor is the down at heels MI5 also ran in charge of keeping track of former assets. He’s also the lead character of three novellas Herron has written set in the Slough House as yet to cross paths with the slow horses, but certainly would fit right in.
  6. Claude Whalen returns – One of the characters I never imagined would return to the series is Claude Whalen. After a disastrous handling of a security threat in Joe Country, made all that more difficult by Taverner’s machinations behind the scenes to oust him, Whalen was removed as the head of MI5. According to this book description, he’s back and looking into something that could threaten Taverner’s hold on the top spot. Now that he’s got some scars, is he more wiley and looking to settle the score with Diana?
  7. Sid Baker – Sid made a return in the last novel, broken and recovering from her time with the slow horses. After surviving multiple assassination attempts and River’s poisoning, will she stick around or run for the hills, another causality of Slough House?
  8. Who will be the new Second Desk? – Part of the fun of the earlier series was watching Taverner plot her way to the top. Now that she’s there, I’d love to see the next person trying to climb to the top of the greasy pole.

Not crucial questions but worth thinking about –

  1. How did Molly Brennan lose her legs? It’s a running joke, but will we ever learn the truth? And was it somehow related to Jackson Lamb and the Cold War?
  2. Jackson Lamb’s background. Herron has repeatedly said that we won’t get any sort of prequel to a young Jackson Lamb. However, we have gotten some tantalizing glimpses. A burning church in an eastern bloc country was a reoccurring motif in Slow Horses. He was mentored by Charles Partner, head of the service, served as a “mirror man” overseas, and did wet work for the hire ups. Will we learn anything more?
  3. Tom Beattany – Beattany was a father out to avenge his son’s death and ended up tangling with Dame Ingrid Tearney. He disappears, presumably killed at the end of Nobody Walks, but there’s a tantalizing line in Real Tigers that hints he might still be out there. “There’s rumours Tearney’s used [these prisons] to vanish people for personal reasons.” Is Beattany locked up waiting for Herron to spring him and set him loose on the slow horses?
  4. Will we see characters from one of Herron’s other books? Herron’s Oxford series gets a few connective mentions in Reconstruction which also leads directly into Slow Horses with some characters. Will we see any other characters make an appearance? The Oxford Series being optioned for television makes that slightly more unlikely but not out of the question. I could also see Victor Driscoll, a quirky computer genius from Nobody Walks popping up in a Slough House book. The longest shot might be seeing characters from This is What Happened show up but given Herron’s love of cross pollinating his creations, anything is possible!

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