Joe Country
Mick Herron
(John Murray $35)

Herron's spy novels aren't exactly an acquired taste but their blend of satire, politics and a particular kind of English humour won't appeal to everyone. But if you're on Herron's wavelength each Slow Horse release - and this is the sixth - is a treasured addition.
The Slow Horses are a bunch of inept spies who MI5 has put out to pasture; firing them would be too troublesome - so they're set tasks like checking who's taking out dodgy library books and similar mind-numbing tasks.
The head Slow Horse is the misanthropic Jackson Lamb - a man as odious as he is funny, and he gets some great lines here - ("... the Cold War didn't really end. It just hid behind closed doors, like Trump in a tantrum"). Most memorably Herron uses the spy novel to skewer hypocrisy in all its guises; and in the rag-tag Slow Horses he's fashioned a set of characters that might stand for us all - who struggle and strive, despite their myriad flaws and frailties, and turn out to be surprisingly heroic when the chips are down. Highly recommended.

Steve Cavanagh
(Orion $21.95)

Irish crime fiction is on a hot streak. Adrian McKinty's excellent The Chain has just rocketed up the bestseller lists and Cavanagh's Thirteen is getting a new lease of life as a result, with the pair being interviewed together as this gets an American release.
This is the fourth book to feature Eddie Flynn - an ex-con man turned defence attorney, who's not above using some of his street smarts to tip the scales of justice in his favour.
Cavanagh wears his influences proudly - Michael Connelly, Lee Child and John Connolly among them - and has a nice, crisp prose style - (this reminded me most of John Sandford's riveting debut Rules of Prey).
It's a clever, elevator-pitch plot - "The serial killer isn't on trial. He's on the jury" that Cavanagh develops into an almost plausible premise. Although at times our villain, who is as adept at disguises as he is with a filleting knife - and suffering from a condition where he feels no pain - veers into caricature.
But in Flynn Cavanagh's got a character who's both relatable and unwavering in his aim to restore the world to rights.


The Paris Diversion
Chris Pavone
(Faber Fiction $32.99)

Pavone's fourth novel takes place over the course of half a day in Paris and is the follow up to his 2013 award-winning thriller The Expats.
Like that book this has a rollicking, if far-fetched, plot involving mum/spy Kate Moore; add to that a spot of domestic terrorism and a loathsome billionaire businessman (who happens to have a crush on his PA) and you've got another superior Pavone entertainment (2017's The Travelers is also a must-read).
We last saw Kate in Luxembourg but a disastrous series of events has plunked the family in the City of Light - "She still loves Paris, but now it's a mature love, clear-eyed with no illusions... No shortage of disappointments... Not unlike her marriage".
This has a tremendous sense of place - even if Paris is in lock-down for much of it - and Pavone's depiction of a struggling marriage resonates.
And it's aptly named; this really is a diversion - a smart, light as air, thriller that's impossible to put down.

Secret Service
Tom Bradby
($37 Bantam Press)

Another mum/spy - this time with MI6 - and a pulled-from-the-headlines plot (I look forward to the many dissertations to come on Trump's influence on the spy novel). During a bugging operation Kate Henderson - who heads MI6's Russian desk - learns that the British PM has prostate cancer and one of the leading candidates to replace him is likely a Russian agent. This is a quick read with deft pacing and a plot that twists and turns with the best of them. It is let down by some stodgy prose, especially in the action scenes - "The air molecules in the stairwell were momentarily rearranged as the knifeman lunged forward" - is pretty unforgivable - but that won't matter when the inevitable tv adaptation hits your screen.