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Illegal Action    by Stella Rimington order for
Illegal Action
by Stella Rimington
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Stella Rimington, former head of Britain's MI5 and author of Secret Asset and At Risk, has once again given us a look into the life of a British secret agent. Liz Carlyle is unhappy about being transferred from counter-terrorism to counter-espionage. Her boss, for whom she has feelings that she's fighting, is taking a leave of absence to care for his dying wife - so, possibly, it's better to attempt something new.

But when Liz is attacked on the street, she's sure it's no everyday mugging. She's been assigned to provide silent protection for a Russian oligarch a Russian who is worth at least several billions and doesn't mind spending it. The British government feels he might be at risk from his own country. The mugging could have been done to silence Liz in an attempt to get to him.

There are numerous hangers-on who move the story forward. All of them are characters you might expect to meet in a spy thriller and, possibly would meet if you were yourself a spy for your country: the Russian's chauffeur/bodyguard; his money grubbing girlfriend (who has made spending his money into an art form); and his long-suffering secretary. To produce more confusion, it's suspected that there is an Illegal in the country, someone working for a foreign government, with an ulterior goal in mind - possibly murder.

Liz is the kind of woman any government would want in their service. She is highly intelligent, loyal to a fault, has her private life on hold for the good of her country, and puts her life in jeopardy even when it's required by a poor decision from higher up. She opts not to question an order, to prove she can handle an assignment as well as a man. The plot of Illegal Action has many threads. Keep reading - they all make a strong binding which holds the story together to bring the book to a blockbuster of a crescendo.

The ins and outs of MI5 that are explored make us realize that governments are run by human beings who have the flaws that we all do, and it's frightening to think government offices are peopled by those who put themselves before the good of the populace. I recommend Illegal Action to you as an absorbing read.

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