Spook Street

by Mick Herron
2017 Soho Press

Method of selection: Potentially racist titles
First sentence: Heat rises, as is commonly known, but not always without effort.
A good sentence: They were both uplit and downlit, these plastic springtime celebrants, and a piano tinkled melodious background nonsense for their pleasure…
Also good, even though I have no idea what it means: In its almanac of images, on a page already turned, the new year had been represented by sledges and scarves and friendly robins, but reality made few compromises, and life this side of the windows bore little resemblance to that enjoyed by the mannequins.

Did you know British people have their own slang words which they didn’t steal from America? It’s true! To learn more, I looked up “Britia” in the encyclopedia, since that’s where British people logically come from. Well actually the VERY FIRST thing I did was figure out what an encyclopedia is. Turns out it’s just Wikipedia that someone printed out and glued together for people in shitty countries that can’t afford a Samsung Galaxy S12k Championship Edition in White Gold. They should get more money.

According to the encyclopedia, there is no such place as Britia, but there is a place called British Columbia, so logically that’s where most of the people must speak British, while the rest speak Columbian. I’m very logical. See?

As it turns out, the word “spook” means a different thing in British English than it does in American English. In American English, the word “spook” is racist. It’s not the most racist word we have, maybe a 4 or 5 out of 10 on the Helms Scale, but it should be avoided while writing municipal regulations or testifying before a grand jury (unless you’re testifying about hauntings). In British English, it means a government intelligence agent. I guess intelligent agents are spooky and haunted? When I picked this book off the shelf I naturally assumed it was written by a white supremacist and the library where I found it was also run by white supremacists. Unfortunately Cambridge, Massachusetts just isn’t that interesting. All the racism here is bland and institutional instead of exciting and in-your-face with fire and stuff.

Instead, this book is about terrorism in England. It’s not about the street where all the black people live. Darn.

Here’s another fun fact: this book is not shitty. In fact it’s so not shitty it even tricked me into reading a prologue, and I wasn’t even upset when I realized it was a prologue. I don’t know why Mick Herron insists on such stupid titles. He’s written a lot of books with shitty titles, including Real Tigers, which is about fake tigers, and Why We Die, which about real tigers. He also wrote a novella, which is just a fancy way of saying, “I ran out of ideas before I finished my novel”. But that’s okay he’s still a good writer.

So buy this one, or pick it up from the library. But don’t let the white supremacists see you with it, or they might think you’re one of them. (Unless you want them to think you’re one of them, in which case, make sure they see it. Don’t worry, though, they can’t read, so you can tell them it’s about whatever you want. I told one of them it’s a book about white tigers, and he thought that was cool.)