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A complicated plot grounded in authenticity
on 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.