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There's no attempt to make it smart or knowing- she tells it straight
on 18 December 2014
Stella Rimington's 'Liz Carlyle' books are curiously addictive. They have bursts of brutal action, but at heart they are 'spy procedurals' and what lifts them well above the normal run of these things is that although they are no more than competently stylish, they feel authentic. The internal dynamics of a large organisation bringing together people of diverse backgrounds and ambitions, but demanding loyalty to an idea of service, is well expressed, and the fumbling for the truth, full of missed chances and dogged successes, feels real. As well it might do; Rimington ran MI5 and if anybody should know about those details, she should.
And the whole thing works. She knows enough to make it interesting. There's no attempt to make it smart or knowing- she tells it straight, or at least she appears to. And she captivated me on that level.
Her characters are a bit caricatural, the Brits as elegant , very clever would-be fops, the Americans as Budweiser drinking would-be National League rednecks (but again, clever thinkers) and the back room techies with shifts and overtime to worry about, they are all there. And Liz Carlyle herself, feeling much like an idealised self-invention but none the worse for it.
I find the whole thing very enjoyable. Precisely because it's as far from James Bond as you can get.