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AT RISK


By Stella Rimington

Alfred A. Knopf, 2005 (First American Edition) $24.00
ISBN: 1-4000-4370-0

Reviewed by Larry Jung
(March 2005)

Spy work, or more correctly intelligence gathering and anaylsis, is done by professionals. It takes a team of experts to get it right. It requires tedious attention to details, checking sources, and verifying what you think you know. Stella Rimington does an excellent job at creating this world. As former head of MI5, the British Intelligence Service, she paints a convincing picture of the nature of the work and the uneasy relationships of the various British intelligence and enforcement organziations. She doesn't back away from the influence of politics (usually bad) on national security.

AT RISK is the story of Liz Carlyle, intelligence officer of MI5, Britain's Security Service, and her mission to catch the Islamic terrorist smuggled into Britain before he can accomplish his mission. Not too far into the investigation Liz and her colleagues suspect that the terrorist is being helped by an "invisible." This is the worst case scenario for Liz. An "invisible" is an ethnic native of the target country. He or she can move about the country, cross borders, and go unnoticed. In fact, the "invisible" is the ultimate undercover operative.

Liz also has to defend herself from MI6 and various law enforcement organizations she needs to work with. How far can she trust them? How far do they trust her? The question of trust is in the end what the intelligence game is all about. The dark side of trust is betrayal. In a world of stool pigeons, organized crime, blackmail, and political deals, she must play the game at the master level just to survive in her career let alone catch the terrorist.

Trust and betrayal is the theme Rimington uses so well to make AT RISK more than another "cops and robbers" story. All the characters in the book, good guys and even more so for the bad guys, are constantly asking who can they trust? Who must they betray?

I enjoyed the book and hope Stella Rimington has a few more cases for Liz Carlyle. If you don't normally read thrillers but like the British TV programs MI5 and WAKING THE DEAD, I think you might like AT RISK. This book has a similar mood and texture.


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