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March 4, 2012 / magickittenblogs

Dead Line by Stella Rimington

My first ever Kindle read has reached 100% – Dead Line by former spy chief Stella Rimington. I’ve not made many previous forays into British spy thriller territory, unless you count Alex Rider and Young Bond, and I had high hopes after Ms Rimington’s extraordinary speech at the 2011 Booker Prize ceremony.
I was pleasantly surprised…

Liz Carlyle is in Counter Terrorism, at MI5. She’s good at it, too. She’s logical, methodical but also intuitive; she’s learned to trust her instincts in her previous few cases, and that includes her relationships with coworkers.
Her immediate superior is Charles Wetherby; his wife is terminally ill so whatever might have been between them is dismissed by Liz as an impossibility. There’s also the rakish scoundrel Geoffrey Fane, who always plays fair at work but nowhere else. Peggy is Liz’s faithful assistant, extremely competent and a little naive and idealistic. And not forgetting a new acquaintance, Miles Brookhaven, an anglophile American agent – but is he interested in her, or her information?

In Dead Line, Liz is called in initially to investigate a potential threat to a Syrian delegation to a peace conference at Gleneagles. Considering recent events in the Middle East, this premise, and Brookhaven’s misty-eyed reminiscence of Damascus, seem somewhat outdated. However, the rest of the plot is great – characters are eminently believable and intriguing; events are pacy and exciting without being over-the-top. No jet packs or underwater cars here. There’s interference from Mossad and a rogue agent, twists, turns and a barrelful of red herring.

To safeguard the peace conference, the Americans are cooperating with MI5, but it turns out they’re also a hindrance. Bokus and Brookhaven are great characters, layered, confrontational, at times comedic. Tyrus Oakes, the big boss in the background was also very well drawn.

I enjoyed the balance of personal and professional life for Liz shown in the novel. Her family relationships added unexpected depth to what can be an impersonal genre, and go some way to dispelling the stereotype of the ‘spy’ as a lone wolf with no ties. And Rimington of course is the expert in this area.

I also appreciated Rimington’s sense of place. The opening section in Cyprus was fascinating, as were portrayals of London.

I look forward to my next Liz Carlyle; I hear there’s a Kindle Deal of the Day for the latest one right now!

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