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by Stella Rimington
Hutchinson, July 2004
393 pages
ISBN: 0091799961

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Stella Rimington, in case any reader out there is unaware, is the now retired head of Britain's MI5. AT RISK is her first venture into the world of writing fiction but not her first effort at writing. Her autobiography, OPEN SECRET created a stir amongst both spooks and laity when it was released several years ago. Former spies simply do not reveal the secrets of their careers. One trusts that AT RISK meets with wider approval than the author's previous opus

Liz Carlyle (in whom Dame Stella admits to having invested an autobiographical component) runs agents. The information she gleans from them must be evaluated and she must engage in team work with colleagues from her own department as well as other departments such as MI6 in order to follow up promising leads. Bruno Mackay is from MI6 and Liz soon finds herself working in tandem with him.

A chance murder by Faraj Mansoor, a man who has been smuggled into the country, alerts MI5 that something is amiss. They have been told that an 'invisible', a terrorist whose background and appearance permits them to move unchallenged throughout their native country, is at large. In fact, Mansoor is teamed with a young English girl who has converted to Islam and whose sympathies lie with militants. She has been intensively trained and is the ideal partner for a ruthless man intent on destruction.

The story is told from the viewpoints of both Liz and the initially unnamed Islamic convert girl. There are strange parallels between the two in that neither is fully appreciated by her male colleagues and both must battle her personal emotions in order to perform her job professionally.

Although the reader is kept apprised of the actions of both sides, there are secrets maintained by the author until the last few pages. Then what motivates and makes reasonable unbelievable actions is made clear.

Rimington's characters are immensely credible, her plotting faultless. The action is hectic and, in this day and age, completely topical. The light the author casts on the inner working of the secret intelligence agencies is fascinating as well as that illuminating enemy aliens' actions and motivations. There is even a partial lesson in the manufacture of explosive devices to enlighten the curious. (Children, please don't try this at home unless supervised by an irresponsible adult.)

This reviewer enjoyed the novel tremendously and trusts that Dame Stella has many more thrillers potentially residing within her.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, June 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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