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by Stella Rimington
Bloomsbury, July 2012
328 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 1408828669

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

MI5's Liz Carlisle is back for her sixth adventure and this one is just as compelling and believable as her earlier books. This one is bang up to date, with an unknown power attempting to reignite the smouldering embers of the Cold War through a cleverly disguised cyber attack. At the same time as Carlisle struggles to crack what looks an insoluble problem, her current lover, the French DGSE agent Martin Seurat finds himself dragged in to the affair as he investigates a possible anarchist plot which directly threatens Liz's extended family.

James Bond and the hundreds of spin offs from Ian Fleming's tongue in cheek super-hero, can eat your hearts out. Where the super-smooth Commander and his imitators, both British and American, have become the stuff of whatever Hollywood thinks it can get away with in fantasy and digital trickery, this is real espionage fiction.

There's the usual quota of dead bodies, a thoroughly nasty main villain and a couple of hair's-breadth escapes. But this is no Bond. Rimington, with more than thirty years experience in counter-subversion, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism before heading MI5 in 1992, prizes authenticity over fabrication and both her descriptions of intelligence work and her characters ring true. Inter-service and international rivalries and tensions, mingled with her obvious admiration for the little people whom she both worked with and worked for her – the researchers, the 'Watchers' of the surveillance teams – make this book totally believable.

John le Carré set the bar for intelligent writing about intelligence with George Smiley, but his enigmatic hero would be hard put to cope with the pace and complexities of the modern age. Rimington has the same ability to portray real people and real problems because she has seen them from the inside.

Just one thing is puzzling. Liz Carlisle has been such a thoroughgoing success that it seems difficult to understand why she is not by now a section head, or at least a deputy. Surely MI5 is now sufficiently up to speed after its first female Director General to recognise her worth by promotion and provides even more insight into the work of those whose duty is to protect us without our knowing? But that aside, this is a thoroughly brilliant book and I guarantee you won't put it down until you've finished it.

§ John Cleal is a former soldier and journalist with an interest in medieval history. He divides his time between France and England.

Reviewed by John Cleal, August 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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