Former MI5 Director spins a fascinating tale of espionage

Former MI5 Director: The Geneva Trap by Stella RimingtonThe Geneva Trap (Liz Carlyle #7) by Stella Rimington (2012) 337 pages

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Leave it to the former head of Britain’s Security Service (MI5) to serve up a compelling tale of espionage that rockets from Geneva to London to Marseilles. In the seventh entry in her well-crafted series of spy stories featuring MI5 officer Liz Carlyle, Stella Rimington weaves a fascinating story involving not just MI5 and MI6 but also the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service, the CIA, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the French Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE), and the Korean National Intelligence Service (KCIA) as well as other agencies involved in espionage. Above all else, The Geneva Trap dramatizes the interdependence of these national agencies in an era when borders have been virtually erased by high-speed travel and the universality of Internet access.

When a Russian spy surfaces in Geneva insisting on speaking only with “Lees Carlyle,” Liz is quickly flown to Switzerland to determine what the man might have to offer British intelligence. She is shocked to learn from him that a top-secret British-American defense project has allegedly been infiltrated by a foreign country that, the man insists, is not Russia. She sets out to uncover the identity of the mole, assuming he or she exists. Meanwhile, someone has murdered a senior Swiss intelligence official on a highway from Geneva to Marseilles. And the daughter of the man who is her mother’s lover is threatened by men from the French anarchist commune she had recently fled.

No reader of genre fiction will be surprised to learn that all three of these threads in The Geneva Trap will eventually intersect. But clever plotting by the former MI5 director makes for a fascinating story along the way.

For nearly three decades, Stella Rimington served in MI5, her last four years (1992-96) as Director General. Unsurprisingly, she was the first woman to hold the post. MI5 is often equated with the FBI, but the analogy is inexact. The FBI is principally a law enforcement agency, whereas MI5 is focused on counterintelligence and counterterrorism. The American and British agencies are similar in one respect, though: just as there is friction between the FBI and the CIA, MI5 and MI6 (Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service) sometimes find themselves in competition for resources and recognition.

If you enjoy spy stories, check out my post, My 13 favorite espionage novels. You might also appreciate 17 good nonfiction books about espionage and 53 excellent mystery and thriller series, which includes this series.

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Mal Warwick