Novel: Rip Tide by Stella Rimington

“Season six” of Stella Rimington’s Liz Carlyle series, Rip Tide (2011), is one of its stronger outings, a fast, smart read with a broader international scope than its predecessors. It starts off the horn of Africa, when the French Navy thwarts a Somalian pirate raid on an international relief shipment bound for Kenya. Apprehended during the incident is a British Muslim, the key to a mystery that stretches back across Europe, via Athens and Paris, to Birmingham, England. With the assistance of her new French boyfriend, Martin Seurat of the DGSE, Liz and her colleagues in MI5 and MI6 work to unravel the globe-spanning operation of a radical Islamist terrorist group.

There’s something comfortably old-fashioned about Rimington’s writing; she has a simple, no-nonsense style that rings authentic. Carlyle is less daredevil action hero than cerebral espiocrat working political angles behind the scenes, and if that makes the books less flashy and action-packed, it also makes them more realistic. The prose is facile, the storytelling somewhat formulaic but assured. Rip Tide’s plot is tight and contained, and Rimington makes her subject matter compelling without sensationalizing it.  This series continues to roll along smoothly, so far without jumping the shark.

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