@@@@ (4 out of 5)
Sohail Din, a young Pakistani-British man, has postponed entry into law school for a year to serve as an undercover source for MI5. His agent runner, Liz Carlyle, returns from leave to find that Din has reported a visit by a notorious radical Pakistani imam to the Islamist bookstore where he works. There, the sheikh met with three young British men of Pakistani origin who are suspected of radical sympathies.
Suddenly, the inter-agency Counter-Terrorist Committee finds itself with a high-priority case. The Committee links MI5 (the Security Service) with MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service), GCHQ (Britain’s NSA), the Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard), and the Home Office (Britain’s Justice Department). MI5, responsible for British counter-espionage, takes the lead.
British counter-espionage takes the lead
Suspecting an imminent terrorist attack on British soil, MI5 swings into action. As an officer in the counter-espionage department, Liz hopes to become involved in the investigation. But the Director of Counter-Terrorism, Charles Wetherby, pulls her aside for a secret assignment: determine whether one of the men or women working for MI5 is a mole. In the ensuing investigation, she uncovers suppressed old relationships to the IRA and suspicious circumstances involving several of her colleagues. Liz’s journey toward the truth takes her to Oxford University and to Queens University in Dublin as well as to a succession of towns in southern England. Eventually (no surprise!) the two investigations merge, rushing toward a tragic climax.
Secret Asset, like the other novels in the Liz Carlyle series, is a compelling read. In the manner of a police procedural, Rimington paints a detailed picture of the complex way in which a counter-terrorist investigation plays out. Practically no one who writes spy novels can match her for knowledge about the craft.
About the author
Dame Stella Rimington served in Britain’s Security Service (MI5) from 1969 to 1996. In the course of her career, she served in every major field of responsibility. She became director in succession of all three branches and became Director General in 1995. She turned to fiction in 2004 at the age of 69. She has since written a total of nine Liz Carlyle novels. Secret Asset was the second.
I have also reviewed At Risk, the first novel in the series. My review is at High stakes in an excellent espionage thriller.