Liz Carlyle has been transferred to Counter-Espionage, along with her research sidekick Peggy Kingsolving. Once the hub of MI5 operations, the department has been reduced in size since the end of the Cold War, and priority within the service is on counter-terrorism. Yet, there is plenty for Liz to do. In fact, there are more spies operating in London today than during the height of East-West hostilities. This includes Russian spies, who continue to operate in number. What's changed is their targets - now they spy on the international financial community that has made London its base in the last twenty years, as well as on the wealthy influential Russian 'oligarchs', many of whom have also come to London to live. Liz learns of a Russian government plot to 'silence' one of these oligarchs, Nikita Brunovsky, who is an increasingly vocal opponent of the Putin regime. How he is to be kept quiet is unclear, but since the Foreign Office dread any kind of incident, Liz is assigned to keep it from happening. Almost simultaneously, Liz and Peggy also learn of the presence of an Illegal Support officer in London, one Vladimir Rykov, who is putatively attached to the Russian embassy.
An Illegal is someone who operates (often for many years) under a completely fabricated identity - and Rykov, it seem, has been sent to London to help an Illegal now based there. To protect Brunovsky from his Kremlin foes, Liz goes undercover and joins the oligarch's retinue. As she tries to determine who around the Russian might be willing to betray him, she has to consider too whether this traitor may not also be the Illegal she and Peggy are seeking...
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US Kirkus Review »
Just because they lost the Cold War doesn't mean the Russians aren't still capable of minor skullduggery.Liz Carlyle has been sent from MI5's Counter-Terrorism unit to Counter-Espionage. The move feels like a demotion, since everyone knows that the action these days is in fighting terrorism (Secret Asset, 2007, etc.). And indeed the assignment Liz lands sounds like a blast from the past. The recent movements of an economic attache of the Russian Embassy in Berlin have Her Majesty's Secret Service convinced that he's a government assassin coming to England to ply his trade. His most likely target is Nikita Brunovsky, an oligarch who already has one bodyguard, chauffeur Jerry Simmons, but is attracted enough to Liz to ask that she be sent into his household as well. Liz bridles at the assignment. Her cover identity as an expert on Sergei Pashko, a Russian painter whose work Brunovsky collects avidly, is paper-thin, and she's not trained in personal protection. But she accepts the job and soon finds that the Brunovsky entourage - girlfriend Monica Hetherington, banker Harry Forbes, magazine editor Greta Darnshof, decorator/art dealer Marco Tutti and diverse emigre hangers-on - is even less interesting than her Intelligence colleagues. Surviving an attack that almost kills her, Liz has no new clues, but only an increasing sense of urgency as she wonders whether she can identify the turncoat in Brunovsky's circle in time to save herself and the man she's been sent to protect. Sadly, this urgency is unlikely to be shared by readers who wonder why saving Brunovsky is worth the trouble Liz takes and don't much care which of the pasteboard suspects will turn out to be guilty.Forget the fate of nations in the shortest, least consequential and least suspenseful of Liz's three adventures to date. It's hard not to share the feelings of her old boss: "To him these people were like characters in a play. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Stella Rimington
Stella Rimington joined the Security Service (MI5) in 1965 and was appointed Director-General 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 non-executive director of Marks and Spencer and published her autobiography, Open Secret. At Risk and Secret Asset, the first two Liz Carlyle novels, are available in Arrow.