Praise for the Liz Carlyle series:'Rimington knows her stuff' Mail on Sunday'Liz Carlyle is an MI5 agent with the traditional thriller-heroine mix of dysfunctional personal life and steely ambition' Daily Telegraph'Intelligent... Undeniably pacey' Guardian'This is something rare: the spy novel that prizes authenticity over fabrication' Mail on Sunday'Tense and terrifying' Cosmopolitan'First class' Douglas Hurd, New Statesman
MI5 officer Liz Carlyle tries to make the best of it after she's unwillingly transferred from counterterrorism to counterespionage in Rimington's excellent third novel (after Secret Asset). Assigned to a case involving a rich Moscow oligarch living in London, Liz quickly realizes that there's considerable evidence the oligarch's been targeted for death by someone in Russia--perhaps with the assistance of the Russian government, perhaps not. Matters become more complicated when it becomes evident Liz herself may wind up a target. Rimington's command of espionage and counterespionage history and techniques (derived from long personal experience at the same British agency as Carlyle's) enables her to bring enormous believability to her well-paced narrative. Her dialogue moves as swiftly as the action, and her characters are as believable as the world in which they--and we--live. Fans of intelligent spy thrillers are in for a treat. Author tour. (July) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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June 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Illegal Action by Stella Rimington
For once Alvin Jackson had made the wrong choice.
Usually he had an unerring eye for a soft target. It wasn't about size-once a man built like a nightclub bouncer had cried when Jackson showed him the knife. No, it was something less tangible, a kind of passivity that Jackson could sniff out, the way a sniffer dog smells contraband.
Not that he expected much resistance from anyone in this part of London. He stood against the iron railings in one of the squares that run off the side streets below Kensington High Street. The night was moonless, and a mass of grey cloud hung over the city like a dirty blanket. Earlier in the evening it had rained: now the tyres of passing cars hissed as they splashed through the puddles, and the pavements were the colour of dark sodden sponges. Jackson had picked a corner where two of the street lights were out. He'd already checked carefully for patrolling policemen and traffic wardens. There weren't any.
The woman walking towards Jackson along the opposite pavement was well into her thirties-not young enough to be foolish and too affluent to be streetwise. She wore a smartly cut black overcoat, her hair was coiffed back, doubtless from a fancy salon, and her heels went clack-clack-clack on the pavement. There was a bag hooked over her right shoulder, one of those trendy leather bags with floppy handles. That's where her purse would be, Jackson decided.
He waited against the railings until she was about fifteen feet away, then sauntered casually across the road and stood on the pavement, blocking her path.
She stopped, and he was pleased to see she looked a little startled. "Hello," he said softly, and her eyes widened slightly. She had a delicate, pretty face, he thought. "I like your bag," he said now, pointing at it with one extended arm.
"Thank you," she said crisply, which surprised him, since most of the women were too scared to speak. Funny how reactions differed. Maybe she was foreign.
With his other hand he showed her the knife. It was a seven-inch blade, with a sweeping crescent curve that ended in a honed point. The Americans called them Bowie knives-Jackson liked the name. He said, "Give me the bag."
The woman didn't panic. That was a relief; the last thing he wanted was for her to scream. She just nodded, then reached with her left arm and unhooked the bag from her shoulder. She held the bag's handles with one hand, and he started to reach forward to take it, then realised she was rummaging in it with the other. "Just hand it over," he was saying as the woman withdrew her hand. It suddenly shot out straight towards him, and something glinted in the dark.
He felt an agonising pain in his left arm, right below his shoulder. "Jesus!" he shouted, wincing. What had she just done to him? He looked and saw blood spurting from his arm. The pain was excruciating. I'm going to cut you bitch, he thought, full of rage. He began to move forward, but the metal implement she held glinted again and jabbed him sharply in the middle of his chest. Once, then twice, each time causing him to flinch.
He was in agony, and when Jackson saw the woman's hand move again, he turned and ran as fast as he could. He reached the corner, clutching his wounded arm, and thought who the hell was that? Whoever she was, Jackson decided, as blood continued to ooze through his fingers, he'd picked the wrong lady.
Looking around her carefully, she saw that there was no one else in the square. Good. Calmly, she took a tissue out and wiped the end of the Stanley knife, sticky from her assailant's blood, then retracted the blade. Normally she would never have resisted a street robbery, but there had been no way she was going to give the man her bag.
A light went on outside one of the houses and a curtain was drawn back, so she moved away quickly, still holding the Stanley knife, in case the man was waiting for her, ready to have another go. But leaving the square, she saw no one on the pavement ahead of her. A taxi passed by; it held a couple, necking in the back. At the corner she turned into a small side street which ended in a cul-de-sac. She stopped at the entrance to a large mansion block, let herself in, then climbed to the second floor. Here she unlocked a door and entered a flat, turning on a light in the small sitting room. The place was sparsely furnished by the landlord, gloomy in its bareness. But it didn't matter to her. She wasn't staying long-she only rented for a month at a time, and this was her third place. She knew that once her orders came she would be living far more comfortably.
She went to the bedroom where two computer bags sat in the corner, and carried them both to the pine desk in the sitting room. One bag held a small black machine that resembled a sleek sort of CD player; the other was a laptop computer. Connecting the two with a USB cable, she pressed a button on the black machine, and watched as it transferred to the laptop data that it had recorded in her absence.