Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: Stories by Mick Herron, Part 1

In the last few days I read six short stories from Dolphin Junction by Mick Herron. The book was published in 2021 and features 11 stories by Herron published between 2006 and 2019.

From the flyleaf of the hardcover edition:

Five standalone nerve-rackingly thrilling crime fiction stories are complemented by four mystery stories featuring the Oxford wife-and-husband detective team of shrewd Zoë Boehm and hapless Joe Silvermann. The collection also includes a peek into the past of Jackson Lamb, irascible top agent at Slough House.

 I have now read 6 stories in the book, and I have enjoyed them all. This is not a surprise because I am a big fan of both of Herron's series, The Oxford Investigations and the Slough House series. 

Sometimes short stories are hard to describe without revealing too much, so my comments on some of the six stories will be very brief.

"Proof of Love"

Joe Silvermann is a private investigator and he works with his wife, Zoë Boehm. Joe sees himself as a traditional P.I.; his motto is "What would Marlowe do?" Zoë is more realistic; she knows that credit checks and reference checks pay the bills. Joe is offered a job by a very rich man. He hires Joe to deliver a blackmail payment and receive a package in exchange, but also to tail the person he meets and find out the blackmailer's identification and address. There are two twist endings and both surprised me.

"Remote Control"

This story is about a man who suspects his wife of seeing another man and follows up on it, with unfortunate results.

"Lost Luggage"

This was a very good story with a surprising twist. A couple sit in a restaurant off the highway, trying to guess the background of another diner. A bit gruesome and unsettling in the end. Only 10 pages long.

"Mirror Images"

The second Zoë Boehm and Joe Silvermann. It was very, very good and very funny. I am not even going to try to describe it. All the descriptions I read spoil the surprises. 

"Dolphin Junction"

This is the longest story in the book, at 53 pages. It borders on a horror story (at least for me). A man's wife apparently leaves him, with a note written on the back of a postcard. The husband insists that she was abducted and forced to write the note. The police can only find evidence that fits in with her leaving voluntarily. He refuses to accept that conclusion. This one was in the nerve-racking category.

"An American Fridge"

I was intrigued by the title of this story, and it is a very unusual tale. A man is getting a tour of his new home, provided by the country he has provided important technical information to. The story revolves around the fantastic refrigerator that comes with the house. 

I have five more stories to read in this book and I will be getting to them soon.


Margot Kinberg said...

I like Herron's work, too, Tracy, and I have to admit I've never read any of his short stories. This sounds like a good collection. I'd like to read more about Joe Silvermann - he and Zoe are interesting characters, and it sounds as though these stories give a solid look at them. Glad you enjoyed what you read.

George said...

Like Margot I'm a fan of Mick Herron. I first read SLOW HORSES years ago and kept reading his clever novels about failed spies. The Apple TV series is first-rate!

Cath said...

I've been hearing a lot about Mick Herron on various blogs lately, and yet before that I'd never heard of him. Which is very odd because everyone else seems to know about him. LOL

MI6 said...

We learn something new every day so with Mick start with Slow Horses

TracyK said...

Margot, these stories are very good, and especially the two Joe Silvermann / Zoe Boehm stories. I thought maybe I enjoyed them more because I had read two books in that series, but Joe doesn't show up much in the Oxford Investigations so these are really set before that series starts. Written in later years, but set earlier.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I would imagine it is very hard to write a short story with espionage elements and make it satisfying. Will have to look for this.

TracyK said...

George, I still have two book to read in the Slough House series, then I will be caught up. I like all the characters in that series.

I do want to see the Apple TV adaptation so some day we will have to add Apple TV to watch that.

TracyK said...

MI6, Thanks for all that information. I will check it out.

TracyK said...

Cath, I have been reading the Slough House series since 2014 but I only reviewed two of them. Spy fiction is hard for me to review. I love the Oxford Investigations books (only read two of them so far). They are sort of a blend of straight mystery and spy fiction (as I remember them).

TracyK said...

Patti, I agree with you, it does seem like it would be hard to get spy fiction into a short story and have it be effective. I do know of at least one author who has done that well: Michael Gilbert in the Calder and Behrens stories. There are two books with those stories. They do tend to be longer stories. I should reread some of them.

Also I know that Edward D. Hoch wrote some, but I haven't read many of those.

You have reminded me that I have THE BIG BOOK OF ESPIONAGE, which George has reviewed. I need to read more from that book.

MI6 said...

Try an amazing book by a non-pro writer about real espionage - if you are looking or longing for more spy fiction bursting at the seams with John le Carré’s delicate diction and sophisticated syntax you may not appreciate the epic non-fiction spy novel, Beyond Enkription by Bill Fairclough. However, it’s been described as ”up there with My Silent War by Kim Philby and No Other Choice by George Blake” so if you want to experience raw espionage written by a real secret agent give it a go. After all, Bill Fairclough was one of the mavericks in Pemberton’s People in MI6. For more, see the news article in TheBurlingtonFiles website dated 31 October 2022.

Todd Mason said...

Brian Garfield (CHECKPOINT CHARLIE: STORIES) and Bill Pronzini come to mind as having written notable short espionage fiction, and not they alone. One of Harlan Ellison's most amusing stories, as I recall it, in part a James Bond parody, "Santa Claus vs. S.P.I.D.E.R", is another. Leaving aside the pulp era markets, there was in the '80s for a brief stretch the magazine ESPIONAGE, published with help from their brother by Robert Guccione's sisters, that included some good fiction from most of the likely suspects in crime fiction at the time...among them Hoch, Ron Goulart, Jack Ritchie, John Lutz, Ardath Mayhar, et al.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Todd. One of the stories I read in THE BIG BOOK OF ESPIONAGE was a Checkpoint Charlie story. I keep forgetting I have those stories because they are on the Kindle. I looked up some Espionage Magazines on ABEBOOKs. Some can be purchased for not too bad a price.

Sam said...

I absolutely love Mick Herron's work, including the novellas and short stories. The guy creates a world that I find myself totally immersed in within a few pages of anything he writes. I've read all the Slough House series, the novellas, some of the short stories, and a standalone or two now and have never been disappointed. I hope Mick keeps going strong for a long time to come.

MI6 said...

Agreed and if you are into espionage do read and where possible view on screen these best in class espionage thrillers. They are all must reads for espionage cognoscenti.

Fiction - Soon to be adapted for the celluloid screen - Ungentlemanly Warfare by Howard Linskey and The Snakehead by Patrick Radden Keefe. Other good fictional reads include The Chase - hopefully a film will emerge next year based on this fast and furious thriller by a civil servant – Ava, Emma or Christi – take your pick! Then there’s Harry Palmer in Funeral in Berlin - shame they chose The Ipcress File for a remake rather than this. Also read about and watch the fictional Jackson Lamb in Slow Horses in The Slough House series. An anti-Bond masterpiece laced with sardonic humour.

Non-fiction - Edward Burlington in Beyond Enkription - a raw noir sui generis novel described as ”up there with My Silent War by Kim Philby and No Other Choice by George Blake”. Before reading, first research some of the recent news articles on TheBurlingtonFiles website. Also read about Oleg Gordievsky in The Spy and The Traitor described by John le Carré as "the best true spy story I have ever read" and Kim Philby in A Spy Among Friends, both by Ben The Times Macintyre.

TracyK said...

Hi Sam, it is good to hear from you. I am glad you are enjoying Mick Herron's writing so much. I still have the last two books in the Slough House series to read, two of the novellas, and I look forward to finishing the short stories in Dolphin Junction soon. I enjoy his writing too, and hope that he has a long career writing novels.