Stella Rimington - Shastrix Books

Stella Rimington

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The Moscow Sleepers

The Moscow Sleepers

Stella Rimington

13th January 2019

The tenth Liz Carlyle novel sees the increasingly senior MI5 officer back in contact with a Russian source, who points her in the direction of a complex plot against the UK and its allies. There’s quite a lot going on across multiple countries and it’s interesting to see how the author balances these in a way that doesn’t affect the flow of the narrative.

I enjoyed seeing some more of the relationships between the recurring characters - it’s been quite fun seeing how they’ve grown since the early novels, and unlike some authors they haven’t been left as recurring stereotypes in each episode.

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about this series, which continues here, is the realism - there’s no sense of the overly dramatic - instead the tension is applied through the subtle believability and the authentic way that the author portrays the goings on in the shadows - there’s no sense in reading it that the events couldn’t actually have happened.

Another solid entry in the series, and I look forward to more to come.

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Breaking Cover

Breaking Cover

Stella Rimington

6th July 2016

Book nine in the Liz Carlyle series. I picked it up dubiously, remembering that I'd found the previous novels to be quite weak. Clearly I was being a fool as I've just looked back at my comments on the last couple of books in the series and they are overwhelmingly positive.

This book follows Liz, and the regular secondary characters, as well as several new ones, as they investigate a vague threat from Russia against the British intelligence services.

It's another fantastic story that focuses on realism and telling a story that's completely believable, with just the right balance between plot and character, as it continues developing their lives. My only gripe would be that there is one key scene that I felt I was seeing from the wrong perspective and it seemed clumsy that it was the one moment that I wasn't able to follow what was happening because I didn't have all the information I wanted as a reader.

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Close Call

Close Call

Stella Rimington

9th July 2014

I'm surprised to find this is the eighth Liz Carlyle novel by real life MI5 head Stella Rimington, who lends a strong sense of reality to proceedings that other authors miss in an attempt to write a thrilling story. I thought this was a really good book that tells a strong, authentic tale, and is probably the best in the series.

The characters in the series clearly grow from book to book, rather than stay the same throughout the series as is the case with some long-running characters, and this adds a sense of realism to their lives. The main character does come across a little too perfect though - everyone seems to love her and there’s not a hint that she’s anything but perfect. There are some good character moments in the book however and it takes things places I really wasn’t expecting, which was good.

As usual, the plot isn’t incredibly action heavy and is quite tied to the concept of a procedural security service story. There’s a lot going on though, and we follow the characters as they learn more about a terrorist threat - unlike some books, we’re not presented with the enemy’s point of view, so we get the surprise as we travel through the narrative alongside. It’s a really interesting look at how terrorism is countered, probably far more than we realise, and there’s nothing here that I can’t honestly believe possible in the real world.

I read the book in just two days (aided by some long train journeys) and it’s kept me really entertained throughout. Definitely one of the strongest in a good series, and I hope I can look forward to more to come.

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The Geneva Trap

The Geneva Trap

Stella Rimington

24th 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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Rip Tide

Rip Tide

Stella Rimington

22nd July 2011

Liz Carlyle returns in Stella Rimington's sixth novel. When a British Muslim is captured by the French navy on a Somali pirate ship, Liz is called in to investigate.

I've been looking forward to this book for a while - until now Rimington has released a new novel every 12 months but this one is 9 months later than that. I'm not, however, convinced that it was worth the wait.

There's little I can find to criticise though - the book just failed to grip. I didn't feel motivated at the end of each chapter to continue to the next, and the action was sparser even than in the previous books in the series. For the most part though the writing was good and everything (apart from some aspects of Birmingham) was utterly believable - as would be expected from an author with such first-hand experience.

The main problem with the plot I think is that it doesn't flow very well. It's very episodic and takes a while to build up to anything, and it really isn't until right at the end that things come together into a coherent adventure. It does leave plenty of scope for a sequel though, so I'm hoping there are plans for more.

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Present Danger

Present Danger

Stella Rimington

3rd January 2010

In Dame Stella's fifth Liz Carlyle adventure, the MI5 agent is dispatched to take over in Northern Ireland, where a confused gang of American, French and Spanish criminals, pretending to be Irish Republicans, kidnap one of her agents.

I've enjoyed reading this novel more than the last couple in the series - the writing style seems to have improved a lot, although there are one or two moments that grate (two characters have wives named Moira just a few pages away from one another). The character of Liz is very realistic, but the other characters don't seem to have been given quite enough depth, including the baddies whose characterisation doesn't quite seem true to their motives.

The book moves at a good pace, and I absolutely love the level of detail that the writing goes into at some points. My favourite parts of these books are where the A4 teams tail suspects - it's so believable (presumably helped by Dame Stella knowing exactly how it's really done!) and her descriptions are some of very few that manage to translate themselves into images in my head. These A4 scenes are ones that I could really see in a cinematic form.

Overall, better than what I've been reading recently, and I am definitely looking forward to the next.

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Unreviewed books

At Risk
Dead Line
Secret Asset

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