Stella Rimington’s latest Liz Carlyle thriller is Close Call (2014) – another no-nonsense, authentic procedural that maintains the series’ steady, enjoyable standard. An attack against a CIA agent in Yemen serves as an early clue in a slowly-mounting terrorist plot targeting western Europe. Liz spearheads the MI5 effort to track what appears to be a clandestine weapon-smuggling operation that ties into a Yemeni prince, a notorious French gunrunner, and a shady club owner in England. Along with colleagues and allies in the British, French, and American intelligence organizations – including her erstwhile protégé Peggy Kinsolving, shifty MI6 counterpart Geoffrey Fane, and DGSE intelligence officer Martin Seurat – Liz works day and night to uncover and counter the jihadist plot, at considerable personal cost.
Rimington remains a reliable voice for entertaining, if not exactly electrifying, spy fiction – and while I don’t think she quite has the dazzling chops of some of her contemporaries, she remains a favorite for me. Her experience in the security services lends considerable authenticity to the procedural details of the intelligence world. While at times I think the pace of her work might benefit from a bit more conflict and action, I also respect that she rarely sensationalizes or over-glamorizes the business. Her writing style is simple, but accessible and lightning quick. This series strikes me as a perfect fit for adaptation into an ongoing, low-key BBC television series. If that type of show bores you, this series might do the same…but I rather enjoy that type of thing, and I’ll continue to tune in for Liz’s adventures, especially if Rimington continues – as she does here – to subtly shake up the milieu to keep things interesting.