Strengths: Not too convoluted in its twists and turns
Weaknesses: Those looking for ‘shoot ’em ups’ may be disappointed.
Why I read it: Sent to me by Bloomsbury ANZ – thank you!
Setting: England, Switzerland, France
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Stella Rimington is one of those authors I’ve heard about and always meant to get around to reading. So when this book landed on my doorstep, courtesy of Bloomsbury, it was fate. Time to imbibe! As soon as I started reading, I had a real “D’oh!” moment. This is definitely the kind of book I enjoy – how could I have been such an idiot to walk past Rimington’s previous Liz Carlyle novels?
There are six prior novels in the series about intelligence officer Liz Carlyle – I really don’t think it matters where you start. The regular characters are explained well and there are only hints to what has happened in previous books. The story works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel.
In The Geneva Trap, Liz has been asked for by a Russian intelligence officer. He wants to tell Liz something and only Liz. It turns out Liz met him at university and he has some sensitive information that a joint British-American intelligence system has been infiltrated by a foreigner. MI5 spring into action, to try to find the leak – if there is one. Meanwhile, a Swiss officer has died in what seems to be a tragic accident – but why was he halfway to France? Why did an American drone suddenly turn wild?
A good spy novel in my book always has many questions. But the key to an excellent spy novel is making sure that the reader remembers all the various threads in the build-up to the finale. Rimington achieves this with aplomb. Short, sharp chapters give the reader updates on what’s happening – from Liz’s meetings with the Russian agent to Peggy’s foray into Operation Clarity to Liz’s home life. Liz is also more than a female James Bond – she’s revealed to have a human side, helping her mother’s partner to investigate a commune his daughter has left. She also is in a romantic relationship, but there are no Bond style scenes here. Liz is pure class.
I really liked the way the focus was not on violence – so many books in this genre come to blows with guns and fists blazing. Liz and her team are intelligent, and use technology and skill to achieve their aim, rather than fighting the enemy into oblivion. (That’s not to say that the book is violence free, but it’s not gory and blatant). Rimington also makes excellent use of supporting characters – the charming Peggy and the droll Fane are two of my favourites. I’m hoping to read more about Peggy – who seems younger and less confident than Liz in other books in the series. Fane is the stereotypical English gentleman – but he knows his job and he’ll support his officers all the way.
In my younger days, I adored the James Bond novels. I think Stella Rimington brings the adult reader a modern, refined version of today’s intelligence officer. It’s more than guns and women – today, the women are running the show, using brains over violence to triumph. I raced through this book, eager to find out what happened…it’s not formulaic but rather exciting and unexpected. Based on this book, I’ve already bought three more of her novels to read!