Novel: Close Call by Stella Rimington

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 she doesn’t quite have 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 the pace of her work might benefit from 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.

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