Sleeper agents show up in spy novels or on TV far more than they do in real life. Sixty years ago, Richard Condon’s bestselling novel, The Manchurian Candidate, exposed the concept to a wide audience. The FX television series The Americans (2013-2018) portrays a Russian married couple near Washington DC during the Reagan Administration. Both Elizabeth and Philip Jennings sleep around and commit murder with abandon in pursuit of intelligence for the KGB. The development of the series was reportedly triggered by the news in 2010 that the FBI had uncovered a network of ten Russian sleeper agents in the U.S. Ironically, later media reports revealed that the agents had accomplished little if anything of value to their handlers. Now comes Stella Rimington, former director of MI5, with an interesting new twist on the concept. The Moscow Sleepers is her tenth Liz Carlyle novel.
The Moscow Sleepers (Liz Carlyle #10) by Stella Rimington (2018) 320 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
Far more than in most other spy novels, the books of the Liz Carlyle series typically highlight collaboration among many different intelligence agencies. Liz directs the counterintelligence division at MI5. But she invariably works with MI6, the CIA, and sometimes the French and German intelligence services in the course of her investigations. And in The Moscow Sleepers, the German BfV joins MI6, the CIA, and MI5 in the act. Interagency squabbles enliven the action.
Russian sleeper agents in Vermont, Germany, and England?
At first, Liz struggles to understand what’s going on. In Burlington, Vermont, a computer engineering professor is on his deathbed at a hospice. According to the FBI, he’s a Russian sleeper agent. Meanwhile, in Hamburg, Germany, we learn that an official in the European Union’s immigration section was placed there by the Russians. His wife is the head of a school for immigrants who are somehow tied to the man in Vermont. And another school, in rural England, has recently been bought by an unknown owner and may in some way be connected to Hamburg. Even with the assistance of her own agent in place in Moscow and the combined resources of MI6 and the CIA, Liz is in the dark.
For further reading
This book is featured on my post, Dame Stella Rimington’s Liz Carlyle series of top-notch espionage novels.
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