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At Risk    by Stella Rimington order for
At Risk
by Stella Rimington
Order:  USA  Can
Hutchinson, 2005 (2004)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Stella Rimington is a former head of the British MI5, so she knows of what she writes in At Risk, a solid, smoothly developed anti-terrorist procedural of the first order. It's an exciting read that also conveys how damaging this sort of career can be to a private life.

Talented and tenacious MI5 Intelligence Officer Liz Carlyle is on the trail of an 'invisible', a terrorist who blends in ethnically to the target country, thus easily avoiding suspicion. Liz is an 'agent-runner', whose sources are continually 'at risk'. Sohail Din, code name 'Marzipan', is a bright young man of Pakistani origin. He has volunteered, with a bravery that 'had wrung Liz's heart', to infiltrate an extremist group, that's abhorrent to him and in conflict with his own Islamic beliefs. Hovering on the edges of Liz's investigation is smarmy MI6 Officer Bruno Mackay, who clearly has - and prioritizes - his own agenda.

We see a woman who calls herself Lucy Wharmby (aka Asimat, 'bride of Salah-ud-din') as she rents an isolated seaside bungalow. There's a criminal ring bringing illegals into the country by sea, along with one 'Special', an Afghan named Mansoor. Greed leads to murder, the beginning of a trail of violence that police and intelligence services will eventually follow. Soon, MI5 know that something is going on but not 'What, who, when, where, why? The five essential questions.' The grapevine says that 'a man has arrived whose name is Vengeance before God.' As the story develops, we learn more about the invisible's background, and how the decision to betray family and country evolved.

At Risk is an absorbing, intelligent thriller, whose author tosses in secrets and surprises that take the story to a higher level than simply a procedural. The heroine has a 'hunger for the fierce, close-focused engagement of the chase.' I hope we'll be able to read more about Liz Carlyle in future novels.

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