Stella Rimingtonis formerly the top official for Britian’s domestic intelligence service, MI5, and clearly knows her stuff. I wouldn’t call Secret Asset a spy novel, because the only people who do any spying here are the bad guys, but it has the look and feel of one.
Liz Carlyle is a mid-level handler of agents and gets word of an IRA agent who has infiltrated British intelligence but was never activated. At the same time, several radical Muslims are in London with a truckload of fertilizer and a plan. Liz and her MI5 cohorts have to race against time to stop them.
Rimington’s prose is tense and effective without ever being outlandish – this is not a Jerry Bruckheimer production, with car chases and ticking bombs and enough gunfire to keep an entire NRA convention happy. This is a quiet kind of tension, where our heroes work hard under difficult circumstances and hope for that bit of luck that will connect the dots and will lead them to the bad guys. The novel also comes with the possibility of one of the minor characters helping Liz as the IRA mole, which ratchets the heat up even more.
Liz is a believable character who we root for without Rimington having to heap all sorts of emotional baggage on her, which is one of the many ways a lazy author can fool the reader into liking a character. Not here – Rimington earns the emotional payoffs in her book. It’s good stuff, an old-school emo-free page-turner. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would.
Also of note: Liz Carlyle’s partner brought over from MI6 to help with the case? A librarian!