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The Secret Hours

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, 2024

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781399800532

Price: £22

ON SALE: 14th September 2023

Genre: Fiction & Related Items / Thriller / Suspense


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An Instant Sunday Times Bestseller* and a gripping standalone thriller with a riveting reveal about a disastrous MI5 mission in Cold War Berlin. A dazzling entry-point to Mick Herron’s writing and an unmissable read for Slough House fans

‘Pure class’ Ian Rankin

‘I doubt I’ll read a more enjoyable novel all year’ Paula Hawkins

‘Pitch-perfect’ Lee Child

‘Terrific’ The Times

‘Never has a work of popular fiction delighted me more’ The Spectator

‘A thriller of immense brilliance’ Sunday Times

Two years ago, the Monochrome inquiry was set up to investigate the British secret service. Monochrome’s mission was to ferret out misconduct, allowing the civil servants seconded to the inquiry, Griselda Fleet and Malcolm Kyle, unfettered access to confidential information in the service archives.

But with progress blocked at every turn, Monochrome is circling the drain . . . Until the OTIS file appears out of nowhere.

What classified secrets does OTIS hold that see a long-redundant spy being chased through Devon’s green lanes in the dark? What happened in a newly reunified Berlin that someone is desperate to keep under wraps? And who will win the battle for the soul of the secret service – or was that decided a long time ago?

Spies and pen-pushers, politicians and PAs, high-flyers, time-servers and burn-outs . . . They all have jobs to do in the daylight. But what they do in the secret hours reveals who they really are.

*Mick Herron’s The Secret Hours was a Sunday Times Number Four bestseller in hardback in the second week of September 2023


A fascinating insight into the machinations of the secret service and the witty writing lifts it above the average thriller
Good Housekeeping
Herron keeps up his gravity-defying balancing act: belly-laugh spy spoof on one side, elegiac state-of-the-nation satire on the other, with a thin, taut line of polished prose between
Financial Times
Herron is a subtle writer who offers a great deal, including psychological insights that stay with you long after the clever plot is complete
Literary Review
Never has a work of popular fiction delighted me more . . . The Secret Hours will become not so much a novel as a machine for delivering pleasure
The Spectator
The Secret Hours has all of Herron's tight plotting and characteristically low-key humour . . . It's an excellent standalone, but fans of his Slough House books would do well to pick it up too
Herron has become something of a laureate of decrepitude
Mick Herron is one of the beadiest satirists of our times . . . one of his best books yet
Daily Telegraph
Twisty, intriguing fun
The i
A very clever and often darkly funny tale of espionage . . . A thoroughly enjoyable spy romp
Radio Times
Herron steps away from his Slow Horses, but not the world of espionage, for this thriller . . . offering a revealing sidelight into the pre-history of Slough House. More sombre than usual but still compelling
Mail on Sunday
I'll be amazed if I read a better book this year. Tense and darkly comic, with razor-sharp prose that revels in the absurdity of modern-day Britain, The Secret Hours achieves the seemingly impossible by improving on the Slough House series
Daily Express
With all the contemporary wit and humour that fans have come to love, as well as his deeply flawed and believable characters, Herron weaves another unputdownable tale as he follows two civil servants tasked with investigating misconduct in the British secret service. A perfect cat-and-mouse chase from this very modern master of the espionage thriller. It's easy to see why Herron is often called the heir to John Le Carré
This is a stand-alone thriller of extreme brilliance (obviously), but it also works as a deeply satisfying origin story for aspects of the existing books
India Knight, Sunday Times
Safe to say Herron's trademark humour is woven in throughout . . . Big issues come under the spotlight - who owns your data, identity, loyalty, truth and realpolitik, but all the characters feel human and individual. Though it's described as a standalone and can easily be read as such, lovers of the Slough House series will pick up on some familiar characters being illuminated in new ways
Aberdeen Journal
Wryly humorous in places, well written and full of tension
Irish Examiner
Nobody does disenchanted spies quite like Mick Herron, and in the standalone thriller The Secret Hours, read by the always impressive Sean Barrett, he is on top form. Fans of the Slough House series will be delighted by this tale of a cold war mission in Berlin gone wrong . . . A rich seam of disillusion is baked into Barrett's rendition; you can almost see the anonymous corridors of power shutting doors in the investigators' faces
Financial Times
Herron's narrative moves with ease between present and past, England and Germany, action and satire
Dow Jones ‘Mysteries’
This might just be Mick Herron's best book - elegant prose, machine-tooled plot, mixing tension with humour. Pure class
Ian Rankin
This might just be Mick Herron's best book - elegant prose, machine-tooled plot, mixing tension with humour. Pure class
Ian Rankin
A master of espionage fiction and a treat to read
Kate Kellaway, Observer
Mick Herron is our best and most topical spy writer
Ian Rankin, Guardian, What We're Reading
I'm going to read it again, out of sheer admiration for its plotting
A deliciously cynical comedy of manners that is probably Herron's most mature spy novel to date
Declan Burke, Irish Times best crime fiction of 2023
[A] masterly novel . . . Set in a political landscape populated with vividly familiar figures, Herron's novel combines an elegantly twisty plot with pitch-black comedy
Irish Daily Mail
Herron has been compared to John le Carré for the intricacy of his plotting and the thoroughness of his world building, though the two men differ greatly in tone and in focus. He has also been compared to Charles Dickens and P.G. Wodehouse for his lacerating descriptions and delight in the absurd . . . The Secret Hours is classic Herron, featuring mordant humour, bureaucratic power plays, underappreciated functionaries, bravura action sequences and at least one unexpected casualty
New York Times
The Secret Hours is bliss
Sam Leith, TLS books of the year
The novel I enjoyed most was The Secret Hours by Mick Herron . . . it is funny, sharply observed and almost uniquely acute and sensitive in its consideration of something most novelists seem to regard with a lofty uninterest: the world of work
Keith Miller, TLS books of the year
Philip Hensher, The Spectator books of the year
I devoured The Secret Hours in one sitting
Peter Frankopan, The Spectator books of the year
Regular readers will enjoy identifying some familiar Slow Horse characters who appear here under other identities, but of most note is a new maturity to the writing that brings home the human cost of espionage and rejuvenates this terrific series
Sunday Times books of the year
A powerful standalone spy thriller from a true contemporary master
Daily Telegraph books of the year
As Mick Herron observed in his Slow Horses origin novel, The Secret Hours (Baskerville), there's a long list of spy novelists who have been pegged as the heir to John le Carré. Herron must be in pole position for principal legatee
Guardian best crime and thrillers of 2023
The Secret Hours is a genesis story for fans of Mick Herron's Slow Horses series. All his trademarks are here: layered prose, a deftly unravelled plot, lashings of caustic wit, and a cast of morally-compromised yet ultimately sympathetic characters
Vaseem Khan, author of DEATH OF A LESSER GOD, Daily Express books of the year
Not only the finest writer of espionage fiction we have, Mick Herron is also one of the funniest and his latest, The Secret Hours, is proof of both. While not strictly speaking a Slough House novel, it's part of that universe and, for fans of Jackson Lamb (and who isn't?), it's both a thrilling and poignant origin story. Herron is simply incapable of writing a bad book and this is one of his very best
Mark Billingham, author of THE LAST DANCE, Daily Express books of the year
Blisteringly exciting and darkly funny
Radio Times
This was the best year since the 1970s for spy thrillers. Mick Herron's The Secret Hours was a delight
Tim Shipman, Sunday Times critics favourite read of the year
This is a more sober work than Herron's comical Slough House novels but even at his most serious he provides more good gags than you'll find in the entire Christmas TV comedy schedule
Charlotte Heathcote, Daily Mirror crime and thrillers highlight
I can't think of many things more pleasurable than hunkering down with Mick Herron's Slow Horses series, capped off with this year's deeply satisfying The Secret Hours . . . I like these better than John le Carré, which is saying something
India Knight, Sunday Times my favourite books to curl up with at Christmas
Mick Herron's The Secret Hours was another highlight, and looks certain to bring more awards to the author's growing collection
Jon Coates, Sunday Express crime and thriller highlights 2023
2023 was a vintage year for crime with too many good books to mention but among many others I loved . . . Mick Herron's The Secret Hours
Nation Cymru picks of 2023
[An] atmosphere full of bureaucratic chicanery, obfuscation and paranoia, all accompanied by a leavening of cynicism and wry humour. For those who enjoy the machinations of the intelligence services it makes for another entertaining read
A deft knockout of a story, with an arc of history, written with humour and style. Mick Herron is one of the best writers of spy fiction working today
Martin Cruz Smith, author of GORKY PARK
I doubt I'll read a more enjoyable novel all year. The Secret Hours has it all: thrilling action scenes, crackling dialogue, characters to infuriate and beguile, and a neatly intricate plot. And through it all cuts Herron's acerbic wit, its effect heightened by the glimpses he allows us, from time to time, from his world to ours
Paula Hawkins, author of THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
Great Britain has a long, rich history of how-it-really-works espionage fiction, and Mick Herron - stealthy as a secret agent - has written himself to the very top of the list. If you haven't already been recruited, start with The Secret Hours - all Herron's trademark strengths are here: tension, intrigue, observation, humour, absurdity . . . and pitch-perfect prose
Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher novels
The Secret Hours is wonderful. It's Mick Herron at his best, taking us into a dark world where there is high action, a spinning moral compass, and hidden motives on every page. And, oh, yes, the fun - Herron's greatest talent may be the examination of serious things with a perfectly wry sense of humour
Michael Connelly, author of DESERT STAR
Fans of the Slough House series will rejoice at this standalone thriller, once again set in a world of espionage, from which all glamour is largely expunged . . . Beginning with a breathlessly exciting pursuit, and moving on to a separate timeline set in post-reunification Berlin, the author's mordant wit is finely deployed on every page - just one of the familiar elements that will delight readers. Watch out for a terrific twist
For a novel about a government inquiry called Monochrome, nothing is black and white in The Secret Hours by Mick Herron. Stunningly plotted and written, this masterclass in intrigue is brimming with tension and paranoid energy. A meaty, breathe-if-you-dare spy thriller with teeth, heart and a sense of humour. An absolute addiction of a read
Janice Hallett, author of THE APPEAL
A fantastic book that kept me up all night. Unputdownable!
Positively pulses with misdirection, deception and deep truths. Mick Herron is a genius
Sarah Hilary, author of BLACK THORN
Mick Herron is not just one of the best spy writers working today, but one of our best writers
Charlotte Philby, author of EDITH AND KIM
Superbly, breathtakingly, well-plotted
Alice O'Keeffe, Bookseller
[A] terrific new novel . . . Herron's traditional tradecraft is on show - the Blackadderesque relish of words, the spy-like manipulation of the reader, the understanding of how the English fend off the serious with humour
The Times
[Mick Herron] proves himself a modern rival to Ian Fleming and John Le Carré . . . This satire-flecked thriller should establish Herron as an institution
Sunday Times