Rimington, Stella. Rip Tide

Bloomsbury, $29.99

Dame Stella Rimington was the first female Director General of the British Secret Service (MI5). With experience in counter-espionage and counter-terrorism, she knows her subject matter, and imbues spy fiction with the everyday details of agency work, exhilarating or otherwise.

These details are the glue that holds Rip Tide together. The sixth adventure in the well-liked Liz Carlyle series begins with pirates off the horn of Africa attacking a ship carrying goods for a non-profit organisation.  A French patrol intercepts, and among those taken into custody is a young English Muslim who is far from home, indeed. It appears a mosque in Birmingham is a base for an al-Quaida cell that impersonates pirates in order to move terrorists to Somalia. Soon MI5, MI6, and later the CIA are involved in unravelling a web stretching from England via Greece to Somalia.

Rimington’s pace is entertaining and her plot knotty, but the depth of her characters is sacrificed to maintain velocity. Carlyle’s French boyfriend is a sheet of cardboard. The Americans can’t wait to scratch their itchy trigger fingers. A gormless young agent comes to a sticky end in Athens, but she was so transparent, it’s hard to care. And although most of the loose ends are finally gathered, some will remain, but this probably won’t bother you when you drop the finished novel beside your poolside lounger. It’s a holiday read.


Reviewed August 2011