At Risk (Liz Carlyle Series #1)

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"An announcement is made at a meeting of the British Intelligence Joint Counter-Terrorist group: "The opposition may be about to deploy an invisible." An "invisible" is CIA-speak for the ultimate intelligence nightmare: a terrorist who is an ethnic native of the target country and who can therefore cross its borders unchecked, move around the country unquestioned, and go unnoticed while setting up the foundation for monstrous harm." "Intelligence officer Liz Carlyle has had to prove herself in countless ways as she's come up through the ranks of
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Overview

"An announcement is made at a meeting of the British Intelligence Joint Counter-Terrorist group: "The opposition may be about to deploy an invisible." An "invisible" is CIA-speak for the ultimate intelligence nightmare: a terrorist who is an ethnic native of the target country and who can therefore cross its borders unchecked, move around the country unquestioned, and go unnoticed while setting up the foundation for monstrous harm." "Intelligence officer Liz Carlyle has had to prove herself in countless ways as she's come up through the ranks of the traditionally all-male world of Britain's Security Service, MI5. But this announcement marks the start of an operation that will test all her hard-won knowledge and experience - and her intelligence and courage - as nothing has before. Having analyzed information from her agents, she realizes that there is indeed an imminent terrorist threat. She may even have the invisible's point of entry. But what she cannot draw out of all the "chatter" is the invisible's identity and intended target." With each passing hour, the danger increases. As the desperate hunt continues, it becomes clear that Liz's intuitive skills, her ability to get deep inside her enemy's head, are her best hope for tracking down the terrorist. But will that be enough? And can she succeed in time to avert a disaster?
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Editorial Reviews

Patrick Anderson
On the one hand, Rimington celebrates the analytical genius of her alter ego and, on the other, she seems to be saying it's mostly dumb luck when terrorists are caught. It's a mixed message but probably an accurate one. What is not mixed is her portrayal of intelligence agents whose personal egos and institutional rivalries are such that we are left wondering if they -- or their American counterparts, whose egos and rivalries are surely no less monumental -- could protect anyone from anything.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The first woman director general of Britain's MI5, Rimington speaks smartly about workplace issues while ratcheting the tension high in her authoritative debut thriller. Enter Liz Carlyle, an agent-runner with a taste for vintage clothes; her married lover, Mark Callendar, whom she doesn't love; and an appealing head of section, Charles Wetherby. You don't need Liz's deductive powers to figure out that Wetherby will eventually succeed Mark, who terminally annoys Liz by leaving his wife. Liz is married to her job. Small wonder: it doesn't get more exciting than this. The Islamic Terror Syndicate (ITS) may be about to deploy an "invisible"-"an ethnic native of the target country"-and only Liz can pull together all the threads. Rimington infuses the chase with moral complexity by making the invisible a real human being, no matter that she boasts a fake name and has "become a cipher, a selfless instrument of vengeance, a Child of Heaven." Most of the characters feel authentic, although Rimington occasionally goes on about strangers briefly glimpsed and introduces several wryly flirtatious male agents too many. She is open about having had an assist with the structure of the book, but the voice rings true, and she keeps faith with a genre she clearly venerates. 150,000 first printing; five-city author tour. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Rimington, former director general of Britain's security service MI5, introduces us to Liz Carlyle, a young, hip, and incredibly intuitive counterterrorism intelligence officer. Working out of London, Liz receives troubling information that leads her to the coast to investigate a fisherman's homicide. Initially, the case seems connected to a local smuggling ring, but the military assault-style murder weapon arouses Liz's suspicions. Her fear grows as information trickles in: nearby are two members of the Islamic Terror Syndicate (a Pakistani fighter and an unidentified British female), leaving dead bodies, abandoned vehicles, and homemade bomb fixings in their wake. But where are they now, and what is their ultimate target? Despite a few dropped story lines, the author pulls off an exciting thriller with nods to Ken Follett's style and Evelyn Anthony's heroines. Women authors and protagonists are rare in the British intelligence genre, and this debut has series potential. Recommended for popular fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/04.]-Teresa L. Jacobsen, Santa Monica P.L., CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Does the post-9/11 world have room for espionage fiction? First-novelist Rimington, the former Director General of Britain's MI5, certainly thinks so. An Afghani terrorist who's taken considerable pains to slip into England illegally but under his own name is en route to a rendezvous with a discontented young Englishwoman, a fearsome "invisible" agent, when something goes wrong. The Norfolk fisherman bringing in Faraj Mansoor together with a boatload of other illegal immigrants sets his eye on Faraj's backpack, and Faraj has to kill him to keep from losing it. Rimington reserves the slow-moving first quarter of her story for the events leading up to this murder. Luckily, her fictional counterpart, Liz Carlyle, who runs counterterrorism agents for MI5, is quick to link the telltale bullet, a 7.62 mm armor-piercing round, to an early warning she's already received about Faraj's identification papers, and the hunt is finally on for Faraj and his home-grown terrorist contact, who's working under the name Lucy Wharmby. "I'm not quite working with the police," Liz tells a reluctant witness. "I'm working alongside them." Every branch of Her Majesty's government agrees that Faraj and Lucy have to be captured before they act. But the stalwarts of MI5, their flirtatious counterparts in MI6, the elite Special Forces, and the time-servers in the local constabulary have very different ideas of what the two terrorists might be up to, where their target might be, and what to do about it. Their day-of-the-jackal search for Faraj and Lucy, played out against the violent and resourceful countermeasures of their targets, doesn't exactly break new ground in the genre. Yet once she sets up her irresistiblesituation, Rimington controls the game of hunters and hunted like-well, like a master of real-life spycraft. New wine, expertly crafted, in old bottles. First printing of 150,000; Book-of-the-Month Club/Mystery Guild selection
From the Publisher
"Intelligent… pacy"
Guardian

"Tense and terrifying"
Cosmopolitan

Praise for Stella Rimington’s autobiography Open Secret:
“The story of MI5’s transformation is fascinating. So too is Rimington’s account of her rise in what was very definitely a man’s world.”
Guardian

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739318409
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/11/2005
  • Series: Liz Carlyle Series , #1
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Abridged, 3 cassettes, 5 hours
  • Product dimensions: 4.42 (w) x 7.06 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Stella Rimington joined Britain’s Security Service (MI5) in 1969. During her nearly thirty-year career she worked in all the main fields of the Service’s responsibilities–counter-subversion, counter-espionage, and counterterrorism–and became successively drector of all three branches. Appointed drector general of MI5 in 1992, she was the first woman to hold the post and the first director general whose name was publicly announced on appointment. Following her retirement from MI5 in 1996, she became a non-executive director of Marks and Spencer and published her autobiography, Open Secret, in the United Kingdom. She is currently at work on her next novel.

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Read an Excerpt

1

With quiet finality, the tube train drew to a stop. A long hydraulic gasp, and then silence.

For several moments no one in the crowded carriage moved. And then, as the stillness and the silence deepened, eyes began to flicker. Standing passengers peered worriedly through the windows into the blackness, as if hoping for some explanatory vision or revelation.

They were halfway between Mornington Crescent and Euston, Liz Carlyle calculated. It was five past eight, it was Monday, and she was almost certainly going to be late for work. Around her pressed the smell of other people ’s damp clothes. A wet briefcase, not her own, rested in her lap.

Nestling her chin into her velvet scarf, Liz leant back into her seat and cautiously extended her feet in front of her. She shouldn’t have worn the pointed plum-coloured shoes. She ’d bought them a couple of weeks earlier on a light-hearted and extravagant shopping trip, but now the toes were beginning to curl up from the soaking they’d received on the way to the station. From experience she knew that the rain would leave nasty indelible marks on the leather. Equally infuriatingly, the kitten heels had turned out to be just the right size to get wedged in the cracks between paving stones.

After ten years of employment at Thames House, Liz had never satisfactorily resolved the clothes issue. The accepted look, which most people seemed gradually to fall into, lay somewhere between sombre and invisible. Dark trouser suits, neat skirts and jackets, sensible shoes – the sort of stuff you found in John Lewis or Marks and Spencer.

While some of her colleagues took this to extremes, cultivating an almost Soviet drabness, Liz instinctively subverted it. She often spent Saturday afternoons combing the antique clothing stalls in Camden Market for quixotically stylish bargains which, while they infringed no Service rules, certainly raised a few eyebrows. It was a bit like school, and Liz smiled as she remembered the grey pleated skirts which could be dragged down to regulation length in the classroom and then hiked to a bum-freezing six inches above the knee for the busride home. A little fey to be fighting the same wars at thirtyfour, perhaps, but something inside her still resisted being submerged by the gravity and secrecy of work at Thames House.

Intercepting her smile, a strap-hanging commuter looked her up and down. Avoiding his appreciative gaze, Liz ran a visual check on him in return, a process which was now second nature to her. He was dressed smartly, but with a subtly conservative fussiness which was not quite of the City. The upper slopes of academia, perhaps? No, the suit was hand-made. Medicine? The well-kept hands supported that idea, as did the benign but unmistakable arrogance of his appraisal. A consultant with a few years’ private practice and a dozen pliant nurses behind him, Liz decided, headed for one of the larger teaching hospitals. And next to him a goth-girl. Purple hair extensions, Sisters of Mercy T-shirt under the bondage jacket, pierced everything. A bit early in the day, though, for one of her tribe to be up and about. Probably works in a clothes shop or music store or . . . no, got you. The faint shiny ridge on the thumb where the scissors pressed. She was a hairdresser, spending her days transforming nice girls from the suburbs into Hammer Horror vampires.

Inclining her head, Liz once again touched her cheek to the silky scarlet nap of her scarf, enveloping herself in a faint scented miasma which brought Mark’s physical presence – his eyes and his mouth and his hair – rushing home to her. He had bought her the scent from Guerlain on the Champs Elysées (wildly unsuitable, needless to say) and the scarf from Dior on the Avenue Montaigne. He had paid cash, he later told her, so that there would be no paper trail. He had always had an unerring instinct for the tradecraft of adultery.

She remembered every detail of the evening. On the way back from Paris, where he had been interviewing an actress, he had arrived without warning at Liz’s basement flat in Kentish Town. She’d been in the bath, listening to La Bohème and trying half-heartedly to make sense of an article in The Economist, and suddenly there he was, and the floor was strewn with expensive white tissue paper and the place was reeking – gorgeously and poignantly – of Vol de Nuit.

Afterwards they had opened a bottle of duty-free Moët and climbed back into the bath together. ‘Isn’t Shauna expecting you?’ Liz had asked guiltily.

‘She ’s probably asleep’ Mark answered cheerfully. ‘She ’s had her sister’s kids all weekend.’

‘And you, meanwhile . . .’

‘I know. It’s a cruel world, isn’t it?’

The thing that had baffled Liz at first was why he had married Shauna in the first place. From his descriptions of her, they seemed to have nothing in common whatever. Mark Callendar was feckless and pleasure-loving and possessed of an almost feline perceptiveness – a quality which made him one of the most sought-after profilists in print journalism – while his wife was an unbendingly earnest feminist academic. She was forever hounding him for his unreliability, he was forever evading her humourless wrath. There seemed no purpose to any of it.

But Shauna was not Liz’s problem. Mark was Liz’s problem. The relationship was complete madness and, if she didn’t do something about it soon, could well cost her her job. She didn’t love Mark and she dreaded to think of what would happen if the whole thing was forced out into the open. For a long time it had looked as if he was going to leave Shauna, but he hadn’t, and Liz now doubted that he ever would. Shauna, she had gradually come to understand, was the negative to his positive charge, the AC to his DC, the Wise to his Morecambe; between them they made up a fully functioning unit.

And sitting there in the halted train it occurred to her that what really excited Mark was the business of transformation. Descending on Liz, ruffling her feathers, laughing at her seriousness, magicking her into a bird of paradise. If she had lived in an airy modern flat overlooking one of the London parks, with wardrobes full of exquisite designer clothes, then she would have held no interest for him at all.

She really had to end it. She hadn’t told her mother about him, needless to say, and in consequence, whenever she stayed the weekend with her in Wiltshire, she had to endure a wellintentioned homily about Meeting Someone Nice.

‘I know it’s difficult when you can’t talk about your job;’ her mother had begun the night before, lifting her head from the photo album that she was sorting out, ‘but I read in the paper the other day that over nineteen hundred people work in that building with you, and that there are all sorts of social activities you can do. Why don’t you take up amateur dramatics or Latin American dancing or something?’

‘Mum, please!’ She imagined a group of Northern Ireland desk officers and A4 surveillance men descending on her with eyes blazing, maracas shaking, and coloured ruffles pinned to their shirts.
‘Just a suggestion,’ said her mother mildly, and turned back to the album. A minute or two later she lifted out one of Liz’s old class photos.

‘Do you remember Robert Dewey?’

‘Yes,’ said Liz cautiously. ‘Lived in Tisbury. Peed in his pants at the Stonehenge picnic.’

‘He’s just opened a new restaurant in Salisbury. Round the corner from the Playhouse.’

‘Really?’ murmured Liz. ‘Fancy that.’ This was a flanking attack, and what it was really about was her coming home. She had grown up in the small octagonal gatehouse of which her mother was now the sole tenant, and the unspoken hope was that she should return to the country and ‘settle down’, before spinsterhood and the City of Dreadful Night claimed her for ever. Not necessarily with Rob Dewey – he of the sodden shorts – but with someone similar. Someone with whom, at intervals, she could enjoy ‘French cuisine ’ and ‘the theatre ’ and all the other metropolitan amenities to which she had no doubt grown accustomed.

Extricating herself from the maternal web last night had meant that Liz hadn’t got on to the motorway until 10 p.m., and hadn’t reached the Kentish Town flat until midnight. When she let herself in she found that the washing that she ’d put on on Saturday morning was lying in six inches of cloudy water in the machine, which had stopped mid-cycle. It was now far too late to start it again without annoying the neighbours, so she rooted through the dry-cleaning pile for her least crumpled work outfit, hung it over the bath, and took a shower in the hope that the steam would restore a little of its élan. When she finally made it to bed it was almost 1 a.m. She had managed about five and a half hours’ sleep and felt puffy-eyed, adrift on a tide of fatigue.

With a gasp and a long, flatulent shudder, the tube train restarted. She was definitely going to be late.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2005

    A SHARP EDGED FIRST-RATE DEBUT

    'At Risk' is a sharp edged first-class debut by an author who well knows her subject. The first woman director general of Britain's MI5, Stella Rimington, lived the perils and pitfalls found in this amazing spy thriller. She experienced the inner office politics encountered as a woman in a man's world, and faced the realities of terrorist attacks. After 25 years experience she is now a counter-terrorism expert and she brings all of her expertise to bear in penning her first novel. Akin to the author herself protagonist Liz Carlyle is an Intelligence Officer with consummate smarts. In a male dominated profession, she's a bit of an in-your-face gal wearing high heels and designers duds. While most of her colleagues at Thames House tend to be drably dressed, Liz 'often spent Saturday afternoons combing the antique clothing stalls in Camden Market for quixotically stylish bargains which, while they infringed no Service rules, certainly raised a few eyebrows.' Her one flaw seems to be found in affairs of the heart - her married boyfriend is really a louse. He's a man who '...had always had an unerring instinct for the tradecraft of adultery.' Ah, well, not even Liz can know everything. What she would very much like to know, actually needs to know is how to identify the terrorists who are able to cross borders because of their ethnic identity with the country they're entering. Almost before we know it our heroine is head to head with Al Qaeda and their like. She has consulted with her agents and determined that there is more than a probable terrorist threat - it's very possible. Suspense builds as each day and hour brings this possibility closer. Liz is aided in her search by her superior, Charles Wetherby, a rather enigmatic but intriguing married man. It's obvious early on that Liz's growing interest in him is more than professional admiration. Stella Rimington raises the bar for thriller writers with her compelling observation to detail, and shows a deft ability to create mounting suspense as the story unfolds. - Gail Cooke

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    exciting counter-terrorist espionage thriller

    At Thames House, the Joint Counter-Terrorist Group employees learn that the al-Safa organization of the Islamic Terror Syndicate is planting an ¿Invisible¿. Pakistan cooperates and the Immigration Office combs the lists for possible suspects. However, the M-15 and M-16 attendees know how difficult to uncover an Invisible is as these terrorists are a special breed being a native of the host nation. An agent just in from Islamabad corroborates that al-Safa is a rare Islamic terrorist organization because it welcomes full blood Caucasians.--- M-15 agent-runner Liz Carlyle sees her work as a means to avoid her matchmaking mother and a place to hide from her married lover, Mark Callendar, who is no longer convenient. The need to track down the Invisible becomes imminent as the evidence mounts that something big is about to occur. Liz starts to put a human face that seems increasingly female to the trigger, but who she is and who is her handler remains just out of visible scope especially since agents allegedly on her side decide not to share information with anyone.--- This exciting counter-terrorist espionage thriller travels on two story lines that connect via the heroine. Readers receive an exciting race against the clock to prevent a catastrophe while also seeing the inner office shenanigans of hiding critical information behind a need not to know façade and sexual harassment towards the token estrogen in a testosterone world. The prime plot is typical of the sub-genre with its adrenaline rush to climax, but is slowed down somewhat by the office side, which is more interestingly unique (and perhaps autobiographical) though not as exhilarating. Spy fans are not AT RISK reading this fine tale.--- Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The First In The Series

    With the author now having written 6 novels starring her character,Liz Carlyle, my hope would be that her writing skills have improved. At Risk is awkwardly done, with lots of filler material. I was able to gloss over sections without missing a beat. Three stars, however, means that it wasn't a horrible novel, and it did have some interest for me. So I may take a look at number 6 in the series just to see how the story has improved.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2008

    Very believable

    Even though Stella Rimington is not a professional writer (well, at least not yet, when writing this book), and it shows, I still give this novel the high mark. <BR/><BR/>First of all, the story is very believable. There are too many books in this genre today that are action-packed, but are full of stuff that has nothing to do with reality, as well as stereotypes beaten to death, and for an intelligent reader that makes it impossible to enjoy the book.<BR/> <BR/>Ms Rimington is, of course, the former head of the British Security Service, so that alone is a good reason to believe her description of the work of a female MI5 officer, the terminology, technical stuff, etc. Also, the plot itself is very believable, especially taking into consideration all the news reports of terrorist acts prevented in Europe, including Britain, since the book was written, and the news reports of tragic events in Afghanistan shockingly similar to those described in the book. The only piece that I found to be questionable, was the background of the terrorist: it is highly unlikely that an educated family from Dushanbe (the capital of Tajikistan) would decide to cross a heavily guarded border with dirt-poor war-torn Afghanand to join local Tajiks in a fight against Taleban. But this actually is a very minor part, and does not specifically affect the rest of the story.<BR/><BR/>Some of the details in the book are actually quite interesting, for example, the silent PSS pistol, it really does exist (even though the translation of its full name is inaccurate in the book); the book gives readers a chance to learn a little about East Anglia geography, even though inexperienced American readers might need need some help with things like Vauxhall Astra (same as Saturn Astra) or car park (parking lot), RAF (Royal Air Force), etc, I am sure most will do just fine. <BR/><BR/>One other thing struck me while I was reading the book (actually, listening to an audiobook, and narrator Jennifer McMahon does an excellent job), it reminded me of the best parts of Ken Follett's novel "Eye of the Needle", a lot of similarities there.<BR/><BR/>Taking into consideration that this is Stella Rimington's debut, I think it is a good novel, I highly recommend it to those who like intelligent modern realistic thrillers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2014

    OK, As a woman I wish the Liz Carlyle books could all be perfect

    OK, As a woman I wish the Liz Carlyle books could all be perfect and puzzling and putting my mind in constant tension &amp; uncertainty. But this one didn't. Maybe I should have not gone back to the first in the series. But I will read the next one!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2012

    Anonymous

    I almost paid $7 for this book. Reading the sample it was almost a clone of Rip Tide which I just finished reading. I am very impressed by this author's style of writing, but reading both of these books back to back with almost the same plot and characters is a bit much. I am not saying that I will never read it, maybe later.

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    Posted August 17, 2011

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