Novel: The Moscow Sleepers by Stella Rimington

With The Moscow Sleepers (2018), Stella Rimington extends her Liz Carlyle series to its tenth volume, and it’s another subdued, capable espionage procedural. This one kicks off in New England, where the FBI susses out the death of a potential Russian sleeper agent in Vermont. The intelligence makes its way back across the Atlantic to the UK, Germany, and ultimately the Middle East, implicating the Russians in a plan to infiltrate enemy agents into western democracies. The lead entangles Liz, with the help of her steadfast young protégé Peggy Kinsolving, in an investigation into a devious transatlantic information warfare operation.

Unfortunately, the villainous plot of The Moscow Sleepers doesn’t seem all that nefarious, especially compared against the Russian conspiracy playing out in plain sight in reality. The enemy threat seems almost tame, and it’s not all that difficult to connect the dots in this one. But Rimington’s low-key, confident voice nonetheless delivers an engaging spy tale, and revisiting these characters—Liz, Peggy, loose cannon agent Bruno Mackey, fussy MI6 director Geoffrey Fane—is like slipping back into a warm bath. If you’re looking for pulse-pounding thrillers, Rimington isn’t the writer for you, but I’ve always found something quietly appealing about her particular brand of understated intelligence-world puzzle-solving. The Moscow Sleepers effectively delivers more in that vein.

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