“Illegal Action – Liz Carlyle #3” by Stella Rimington

Convincing but only mildly suspenseful Brit spy story, set in 2007 when the idea that Russia was waging a covert war against the UK was still new.

The appeal of the Liz Carlyle books comes mostly from the fact that they are written by the ex-Director General of MI5 and therefore have a chance at being based on knowledge of how the secret service actually operates.

“Illegal Action” delivers against that promise, this time moving Liz Carlyle into counter-intelligence and focusing her on an alleged plot against Russian Oligarchs living in London. In 2007, when this book was written, counter-terrorism was the star act. Counter-terrorism was yesterday’s favourite. The cold war was over and the Good Friday Agreement had been in place for almost twenty years. “Illegal Action” focuses its attention on the extent of Russian espeionage in London and the presence of a large number of Russion ologarchs who owned a lot of London Real Estate and many of whom had UK passports.

The procedural details are interesting and sound authentic. The plot has a few twists and curves along the way and the resolution is credible.

I couldn’t quite accept that someone as experienced as Liz Carlyle would go so long in this story without understanding the personal risks she was running.

There was some tension in the book but it was of the, I’m-curious-if-THIS-or-THAT-will-happen rather than of the PLEASE-don’t-let-THAT-happen kind.

The characters are drawn in just enough detail to make the story work but none of them truly came alive for me.

“Illegal Action” was a quick, entertaining but not very memorable read.

I recommend the audiobook version. It’s very easy on the ear.

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