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4.2 out of 5 stars
The Geneva Trap (Unabridged)
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 7 August 2012
MI5 Intelligence Officer Liz Carlyle is called to Geneva when a Russian intelligence agent approaches MI5 and demanding to speak to her. He has news about the infiltration of a top secret US/UK defence project. As Liz and her team hunt for the mole hidden somewhere within the Ministry of Defence, the Swiss authorities are conducting parallel enquiries into another Russian intelligence officer based in Geneva. At the same time, Liz is trying to assist her mother's partner with a family problem associated with an anarchist group in Southern France. There are some connections between these storylines, although the connections are not as straightforward as it will initially appear.

What I always like about Stella Rimington's books are the way that they ooze authenticity. Even little throwaway lines like describing the MI6 headquarters as "a mixture of understated gloom and grandiose pomp." When she describes surveillance operations or the way that agencies exchange information, you know that it's grounded in the reality of how these things are actually done. While there is action and violence in her stories, it doesn't stretch beyond the limits of all credibility.

Rimington's weakness as an author has always been character development. She has a knack for writing extremely wooden conversations, but this story is very much investigation based so it's less of an issue than it is in some of her other books. The relationship between Liz and her French counterpart is still very much on, but it's a relationship that's entirely devoid of any spark. We are told of their feelings for one another without ever feeling them.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the story. It's not a "can't put down" thriller, but it develops at a good pace and keeps some connections withheld until the very end.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 24 July 2012
In former MI5 director-general Dame Stella Rimington's seventh Liz Carlyle novel, the counter-espionage officer is called to Geneva when a Russian agent insists on talking only to her. It continues the style of the previous books, focussing heavily on depicting the realism of life in the security service while presenting a compelling tale.

The characterisation moves up a notch in this novel, with a significant sub-plot around elements of Liz's private life, and more of her backstory is revealed. The other characters are used more than in earlier books, with several of them getting significant portions of the narrative.

The plot is compelling and moves at a good pace - the realistic nature of the storyline may put some readers off as it's certainly not 'action packed', but I enjoy the insight into the actual workings of the security services that Rimington's real-life experience brings.

I found this to be one of the best in the series, with a good strong plot and compelling characters. I look forward to more adventures and finding out how the characters' lives will change.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Geneva Trap, Stella Rimington, Bloomsbury, 2013 (2012), 328p.

This is an excellent story about intelligence operations, featuring the author's recurring character of Liz Carlyle and her regular supporting cast. This is not an action `thriller' with heroes running around with machine guns and bombs shooting up villains and blowing things up, having spectacular car chases and escaping from deadly traps and situations, while high-tech weapons are stolen or taken over for nefarious purposes. Having said all that, all the above does actually happen, but in the context of a structured intelligence-gathering operation that happens to coincide with some unrelated counter-terrorism operations, due to personal interactions between the main characters. The story begins with two apparently unrelated incidents in Switzerland, when a Swiss intelligence officer spots a suspected Russian intelligence officer and decides to follow him to see what he's up to; and another Russian contacts MI6 in Switzerland and asks to meet Liz Carlyle. The Russian contact reveals that there is a third-party mole in the MoD interfering with a top-secret Anglo-American drone project. As MI5 investigates, small pieces of information are gathered that are slowly woven into a bigger and bigger picture. Meanwhile, Liz's prospective step-sister returns to England from several years in a French commune, which Liz's boyfriend is investigating. This grows into a separate and unrelated plot that gives us something to watch while the other one gestates, but is interwoven so carefully that we don't notice or even care, as this is the more `human' side of Liz's life. The two stories eventually reach a climax and conclusion, in an excellently constructed and seamless story. This is not Bond or Bourne, but it is its own more `real' world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 December 2013
Well, it was a book and I read it. It wasn't bad but it wasn't good either. It was a lazy book. We were given sketches of the characters rather than portraits and there were no layers or convolutions to the plot which just plodded on in a pretty straight line. Something could have been made of the two cities, Geneva and London but we got no sense of place whatsoever. The book felt like the first draft of a book which was going to be developed into something rather interesting and I was left with a feeling of disappointment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Geneva Trap, Stella Rimington, Bloomsbury, 2013 (2012), 328p.

This is an excellent story about intelligence operations, featuring the author's recurring character of Liz Carlyle and her regular supporting cast. This is not an action `thriller' with heroes running around with machine guns and bombs shooting up villains and blowing things up, having spectacular car chases and escaping from deadly traps and situations, while high-tech weapons are stolen or taken over for nefarious purposes. Having said all that, all the above does actually happen, but in the context of a structured intelligence-gathering operation that happens to coincide with some unrelated counter-terrorism operations, due to personal interactions between the main characters. The story begins with two apparently unrelated incidents in Switzerland, when a Swiss intelligence officer spots a suspected Russian intelligence officer and decides to follow him to see what he's up to; and another Russian contacts MI6 in Switzerland and asks to meet Liz Carlyle. The Russian contact reveals that there is a third-party mole in the MoD interfering with a top-secret Anglo-American drone project. As MI5 investigates, small pieces of information are gathered that are slowly woven into a bigger and bigger picture. Meanwhile, Liz's prospective step-sister returns to England from several years in a French commune, which Liz's boyfriend is investigating. This grows into a separate and unrelated plot that gives us something to watch while the other one gestates, but is interwoven so carefully that we don't notice or even care, as this is the more `human' side of Liz's life. The two stories eventually reach a climax and conclusion, in an excellently constructed and seamless story. This is not Bond or Bourne, but it is its own more `real' world.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 10 September 2012
The first Stella Rimington book I've read, and probably not the last. A little silly towards the end, but in keeping with most spy jaunts. I was guided by the other customer reviews, which at the time, were positive. Other books in the series have not faired so well, so I shall choose my next installment with care. A good holiday read which temporarily allows you to feel like a spy, but no big surprises at the end.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2013
- I had always looked forward eagerly to her books. It just seemed weak in plot and in chararcter development. It won't stop me reading her though. we all have off days/months.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2014
Sella Rimington writes with an easy mastery of the genre. As a former Director General of the Security Service of the United Kingdom her writing shines with authenticity.

To the Author: Bravo, another Stella performance... Sorry couldn't resist.

Mike Day
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 September 2014
The intrigue was very gripping although so many names was a little confusing. However this did not spoil the flow and interest in our Secret Service which the author clearly has a deep knowledge of. A fascinating book which I would recommend to anyone. Well done Stella.
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on 12 March 2015
It is revealing that at the moments of greatest tension in “The Geneva Trap” the main character, MI5 agent Liz Carlyle, and her colleagues, family and friends are not present. Rather, the tension is at its sharpest during two scenes centred upon an operator at a terminal in a US tracking station when a drone’s communication system is taken over by a foreign power. There is no need for character-development in these scenes; instead, the risks and high stakes are made clear, with Stella Rimington conveying the double immediacy of the event in the tracking station and the potential impact in another desert in Oman, as well as the potential global ramifications if control over the drone is not re-established and the source of the threat to communications and to a top-secret Anglo-American project identified. Routine and drama are effectively and very economically combined.

Stella Rimington was once the Director General of MI5 and obviously understands that part of the secret world better than other spy-novelists who have had partial or short-lived acquaintance with their subject, Ian Fleming and John Le Carre, to mention two very different examples. But this leaves her with a challenge. She patently wants to counter the gung-ho or downbeat or tragic and generally melodramatic tendencies of the genre, with its excessive masculinity at one end of the genre. Her answer, to date, has been Liz Carlyle, whose career and struggles advertise the importance of the secret service being a meritocracy rather than an old boys’ club. Unfortunately, Rimington has yet to work out how best to make ordinariness and a middle-class, Home Counties background interesting when the plot can throw up terror and violence at any moment. When she fails to make the two spheres inter-relate successfully, Rimington can come across as preachy at times in her indirect commentary on a "modern" secret service … and rather prim. Some critics complain that she is weak at characterisation and that may be so, though there are details that indicate she could remedy that shortcoming. I think it has more to do with the narrative structure of the Liz Carlyle novels and particularly how Rimington positions herself as novelist/narrator in relation to her main character. She is, at once, too close to Carlyle, who carries much of what she seems to think about the secret services, and not close enough. We learn about Carlyle’s family, love-affair(s), education and career but the more we learn about her overall c/v, the less interesting she seems; which is not to say that the middle-classes, the Home Counties, a single woman with a tough career-path can’t be interesting subjects. Rimington gives us the context, back-story and pen pictures of characters and while this isn’t as clumsy a technique as insisting on descriptions of the look of characters and especially their eyes as the essence of their meaning, she is left with a lot to do when a defector or a mole makes an appearance.

I am left with the feeling that the effort to write a different kind of spy novel is certainly worthwhile and that Stella Rimington ought to be in a position to write it, but that this series of novels isn’t working, so far, at any rate and after eight Liz Carlyle novels (“The Geneva Trap” is the seventh) it may be that Rimington ought to come at the challenge with a different main character or even look for a more distributed structure.
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