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A Novel

Written by Stella RimingtonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Stella Rimington



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List Price: $6.99

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On Sale: January 11, 2005
Pages: 384 | ISBN: 978-1-4000-4478-8
Published by : Knopf Knopf

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On Sale: January 11, 2005
ISBN: 978-1-4159-2195-1
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Tags for this book (powered by Library Thing)
fiction (48) thriller (28) espionage (23) mystery (22) mi5 (22) spy (16) terrorism (12) crime (10) novel (8) england (8) liz carlyle (7) spy fiction (5) london (4)
fiction (48) thriller (28) espionage (23) mystery (22) mi5 (22) spy (16)
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terrorism (12) crime (10) novel (8) england (8) liz carlyle (7) spy fiction (5) london (4)
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

A terrorist is targeting Britain. And to make matters worse it’s an “invisible”--someone traveling under a British passport. Virtually impossible to find before it’s too late.The job falls to Liz Carlyle, the most resourceful counter terror agent in British intelligence. Tracking down this invisible is a challenge like none she has faced before. It will require all her hard-won experience, to say nothing of her intelligence and courage. Drawing on her own years as Britain's highest-ranking spy, Stella Rimington gives us a story that is smart, tautly drawn, and suspenseful from first to last.

Excerpt

1

With quiet finality, the tube train drew to a stop. A long hydraulic gasp, and then silence.

For several moments no one in the crowded carriage moved. And then, as the stillness and the silence deepened, eyes began to flicker. Standing passengers peered worriedly through the windows into the blackness, as if hoping for some explanatory vision or revelation.

They were halfway between Mornington Crescent and Euston, Liz Carlyle calculated. It was five past eight, it was Monday, and she was almost certainly going to be late for work. Around her pressed the smell of other people ’s damp clothes. A wet briefcase, not her own, rested in her lap.

Nestling her chin into her velvet scarf, Liz leant back into her seat and cautiously extended her feet in front of her. She shouldn’t have worn the pointed plum-coloured shoes. She ’d bought them a couple of weeks earlier on a light-hearted and extravagant shopping trip, but now the toes were beginning to curl up from the soaking they’d received on the way to the station. From experience she knew that the rain would leave nasty indelible marks on the leather. Equally infuriatingly, the kitten heels had turned out to be just the right size to get wedged in the cracks between paving stones.

After ten years of employment at Thames House, Liz had never satisfactorily resolved the clothes issue. The accepted look, which most people seemed gradually to fall into, lay somewhere between sombre and invisible. Dark trouser suits, neat skirts and jackets, sensible shoes – the sort of stuff you found in John Lewis or Marks and Spencer.

While some of her colleagues took this to extremes, cultivating an almost Soviet drabness, Liz instinctively subverted it. She often spent Saturday afternoons combing the antique clothing stalls in Camden Market for quixotically stylish bargains which, while they infringed no Service rules, certainly raised a few eyebrows. It was a bit like school, and Liz smiled as she remembered the grey pleated skirts which could be dragged down to regulation length in the classroom and then hiked to a bum-freezing six inches above the knee for the busride home. A little fey to be fighting the same wars at thirtyfour, perhaps, but something inside her still resisted being submerged by the gravity and secrecy of work at Thames House.

Intercepting her smile, a strap-hanging commuter looked her up and down. Avoiding his appreciative gaze, Liz ran a visual check on him in return, a process which was now second nature to her. He was dressed smartly, but with a subtly conservative fussiness which was not quite of the City. The upper slopes of academia, perhaps? No, the suit was hand-made. Medicine? The well-kept hands supported that idea, as did the benign but unmistakable arrogance of his appraisal. A consultant with a few years’ private practice and a dozen pliant nurses behind him, Liz decided, headed for one of the larger teaching hospitals. And next to him a goth-girl. Purple hair extensions, Sisters of Mercy T-shirt under the bondage jacket, pierced everything. A bit early in the day, though, for one of her tribe to be up and about. Probably works in a clothes shop or music store or . . . no, got you. The faint shiny ridge on the thumb where the scissors pressed. She was a hairdresser, spending her days transforming nice girls from the suburbs into Hammer Horror vampires.

Inclining her head, Liz once again touched her cheek to the silky scarlet nap of her scarf, enveloping herself in a faint scented miasma which brought Mark’s physical presence – his eyes and his mouth and his hair – rushing home to her. He had bought her the scent from Guerlain on the Champs Elysées (wildly unsuitable, needless to say) and the scarf from Dior on the Avenue Montaigne. He had paid cash, he later told her, so that there would be no paper trail. He had always had an unerring instinct for the tradecraft of adultery.

She remembered every detail of the evening. On the way back from Paris, where he had been interviewing an actress, he had arrived without warning at Liz’s basement flat in Kentish Town. She’d been in the bath, listening to La Bohème and trying half-heartedly to make sense of an article in The Economist, and suddenly there he was, and the floor was strewn with expensive white tissue paper and the place was reeking – gorgeously and poignantly – of Vol de Nuit.

Afterwards they had opened a bottle of duty-free Moët and climbed back into the bath together. ‘Isn’t Shauna expecting you?’ Liz had asked guiltily.

‘She ’s probably asleep’ Mark answered cheerfully. ‘She ’s had her sister’s kids all weekend.’

‘And you, meanwhile . . .’

‘I know. It’s a cruel world, isn’t it?’

The thing that had baffled Liz at first was why he had married Shauna in the first place. From his descriptions of her, they seemed to have nothing in common whatever. Mark Callendar was feckless and pleasure-loving and possessed of an almost feline perceptiveness – a quality which made him one of the most sought-after profilists in print journalism – while his wife was an unbendingly earnest feminist academic. She was forever hounding him for his unreliability, he was forever evading her humourless wrath. There seemed no purpose to any of it.

But Shauna was not Liz’s problem. Mark was Liz’s problem. The relationship was complete madness and, if she didn’t do something about it soon, could well cost her her job. She didn’t love Mark and she dreaded to think of what would happen if the whole thing was forced out into the open. For a long time it had looked as if he was going to leave Shauna, but he hadn’t, and Liz now doubted that he ever would. Shauna, she had gradually come to understand, was the negative to his positive charge, the AC to his DC, the Wise to his Morecambe; between them they made up a fully functioning unit.

And sitting there in the halted train it occurred to her that what really excited Mark was the business of transformation. Descending on Liz, ruffling her feathers, laughing at her seriousness, magicking her into a bird of paradise. If she had lived in an airy modern flat overlooking one of the London parks, with wardrobes full of exquisite designer clothes, then she would have held no interest for him at all.

She really had to end it. She hadn’t told her mother about him, needless to say, and in consequence, whenever she stayed the weekend with her in Wiltshire, she had to endure a wellintentioned homily about Meeting Someone Nice.

‘I know it’s difficult when you can’t talk about your job;’ her mother had begun the night before, lifting her head from the photo album that she was sorting out, ‘but I read in the paper the other day that over nineteen hundred people work in that building with you, and that there are all sorts of social activities you can do. Why don’t you take up amateur dramatics or Latin American dancing or something?’

‘Mum, please!’ She imagined a group of Northern Ireland desk officers and A4 surveillance men descending on her with eyes blazing, maracas shaking, and coloured ruffles pinned to their shirts.
‘Just a suggestion,’ said her mother mildly, and turned back to the album. A minute or two later she lifted out one of Liz’s old class photos.

‘Do you remember Robert Dewey?’

‘Yes,’ said Liz cautiously. ‘Lived in Tisbury. Peed in his pants at the Stonehenge picnic.’

‘He’s just opened a new restaurant in Salisbury. Round the corner from the Playhouse.’

‘Really?’ murmured Liz. ‘Fancy that.’ This was a flanking attack, and what it was really about was her coming home. She had grown up in the small octagonal gatehouse of which her mother was now the sole tenant, and the unspoken hope was that she should return to the country and ‘settle down’, before spinsterhood and the City of Dreadful Night claimed her for ever. Not necessarily with Rob Dewey – he of the sodden shorts – but with someone similar. Someone with whom, at intervals, she could enjoy ‘French cuisine ’ and ‘the theatre ’ and all the other metropolitan amenities to which she had no doubt grown accustomed.

Extricating herself from the maternal web last night had meant that Liz hadn’t got on to the motorway until 10 p.m., and hadn’t reached the Kentish Town flat until midnight. When she let herself in she found that the washing that she ’d put on on Saturday morning was lying in six inches of cloudy water in the machine, which had stopped mid-cycle. It was now far too late to start it again without annoying the neighbours, so she rooted through the dry-cleaning pile for her least crumpled work outfit, hung it over the bath, and took a shower in the hope that the steam would restore a little of its élan. When she finally made it to bed it was almost 1 a.m. She had managed about five and a half hours’ sleep and felt puffy-eyed, adrift on a tide of fatigue.

With a gasp and a long, flatulent shudder, the tube train restarted. She was definitely going to be late.


From the Hardcover edition.
Stella Rimington|Author Q&A

About Stella Rimington

Stella Rimington - At Risk

Photo © Jamie Hughes

Stella Rimington joined Britain’s Security Service (MI5) in 1969. During her nearly thirty-year career she worked in all the main fields of the Service’s responsibilities—counter subversion, counter espionage and counter terrorism—and successively became Director of all three branches. Appointed Director General of MI5 in 1992, she was the first woman to hold the post and the first Director General whose name was publicly announced on appointment. Following her retirement from MI5 in 1996, she became a nonexecutive director of Marks & Spencer and published her autobiography, Open Secret, in the United Kingdom. She is also the author of three previous novels: At Risk, Secret Asset and Illegal Action. Rimington lives in London.

Author Q&A

Q) How long did you work for MI5 and what was your position there? For those in our American audience who may not be familiar with the UK organization, please give a brief explanation of how it is, or is not, similar to the FBI here in the States.

A) I worked for MI5 for 27 years, joining in 1969 as a Junior Assistant Officer (a special rank for women, who were only allowed to be assistants in those days) and leaving in 1996 as Director General (the boss). During my career I worked mainly in counter-espionage and counter-terrorism, becoming successively Director of each of those areas. For part of the time I ran human sources (or 'agents' as we call them in UK–not the same as Agents in FBIspeak), which is Liz Carlyle's job in the book. There is no exact equivalent to MI5 in the US. There has been some discussion, as a part of the investigations of the 9/11 Commission, for example, as to whether such an agency should be created. But it has been decided not to, as I understand it. The nearest equivalent is what used to be called the Foreign Counter Intelligence part of the FBI, but it is different. MI5 is a civilian intelligence service with no powers of arrest or any other police powers,
but a lot of investigative powers. For example, they have the power to intercept
communications, follow people around, and search houses and cars. Its job is to help to
protect the country against serious threats to our national security by generating intelligence, assessing it and taking action on it to prevent the harm intended. It works very closely with the police, particularly Special Branches (which exist in large part to provide MI5 with the police back-up it needs), the Metropolitan Police, which covers London, and the other much smaller police forces which cover the different parts of the country. It also works very closely with MI6, which is our foreign intelligence service and much more like the CIA.

Q) Is there rivalry between MI5 and MI6, similar to the tensions that arise in the novel? (for instance, a lack of communication that may be similar to the FBI and the CIA).

A) The tensions between Liz and Bruno in the novel are a rather tongue-in-cheek representation of the image everyone has of MI5 and 6 always arguing. In fact, this is not
true. On the whole they work extremely closely together (as the characters Charles Wetherby and Geoffrey Fane do). But they are very different kinds of organizations, employing different sorts of people and with a different culture and a different job to do. So, from time to time individuals rub each other up the wrong way–as Liz and Bruno do. There has not been the same criticism in UK about lack of communication between agencies as there has been in the US. MI5 and 6 have worked much more closely together for years than the FBI and the CIA, partly because the laws in this country make it easier and partly because we have a long experience here of dealing with terrorism.

Q) What provisions did the UK invoke after the terrorist attacks on September 11th here in the United States? For instance, in the novel you mention the Prevention of Terrorism Act–how was this amended?

A) The Prevention of Terrorism Act has been in existence for many years and dates back to the time we were dealing with terrorism from Northern Ireland (1970s, 80s and early 90s), though it has been amended from time to time and new powers added. The main changes to the law since 9/11 have been changes in the powers to detain foreign citizens against whom there is terrorist related information and who cannot, for various reasons, be extradited.

Q) In At Risk we get a rare inside view of terrorists’ planning, thoughts and feelings in the days leading up to their attack. On what basis did you characterize them–where they came from, where their anger came from, what they’re capable of?

A) With regards to the terrorists in the novel and the way they think and plan, that comes
from my own experience of what motivates the sort of terrorists I have worked against
during my career. But it is a novel and not to be taken as a blueprint for what happens in real life.

Q) How much of the spy tactics in your novel are based on real methods, i.e., encrypted emails and numbered usernames?

A) The tradecraft of Liz and her colleagues is fairly accurate. For example, liaison with the police, the use of agent runners and investigators, care over the use of mobile phones, and encyphered communications on laptops.

Q) Frustration seems to go hand in hand with the job, as Liz fights it frequently. How much of the job is based on luck, or public sightings, and how much is based on actual “spook work”?

A) Inevitably there is a lot of frustration in intelligence work. You never know the whole
picture, and for a lot of the time you are partly in the dark, waiting for the results of
investigations, new information to come in, or some lucky breakthrough. Success comes
from a combination of good solid investigation work, well-placed human sources,
information from the public, and good luck, all coordinated and put together by intelligent assessment and analysis. At the end of the day that's what intelligence work is.


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise

"As engrossing and hard to resist as Fredrick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal." —Orlando Sentinel

“ExcitingÉ[Rimington] bids to join the ranks of such secret agent-authors as Graham Greene [and] John le Carr?. At Risk is an exciting debut novel.”—The Wall Street Journal

"Entertaining. . . . Briskly told. . . . [Will] keep you turning the pages." —The Washington Post Book World

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