Stella Rimington’s Liz Carlyle series is like an unexceptional but comfortable and friendly pub. The food isn’t spectacular, but the drinks go down smoothly, the faces are familiar, and the atmosphere is just right.
The series’ ninth episode, Breaking Cover (2016), finds Liz working light duty in MI-5’s counter-espionage section, recovering from personal tragedy. But the workload’s about to intensify: she and her erstwhile sidekick Peggy Kinsolving soon begin tracking signs of a potential Russian subversion operation, that may be reorienting toward damaging the intelligence services. With the assistance of her long-time colleagues in MI-6, GCHQ, and the CIA, Liz works tirelessly to identify the treacherous agents responsible and protect the service.
Breaking Cover doesn’t shake up the formula at all, and its mysteries aren’t particularly complex; indeed, veteran spy novel readers will sniff out most of this one’s gentle twists pretty easily. It doesn’t help that the Russian plot on display, while timely, seems relatively quaint in light of current events. But the simple, elegant prose and welcoming style makes this another cozy, speedy read, for me the literary equivalent of comfort food. Sometimes you’re just in the mood for a good burger.