A foiled Somali hijacking sets MI5’s Liz Carlyle (Dead Line, 2010, etc.) on the winding trail of international terrorists.
It’s nice that the pirates who attempted to seize the Aristides, a little ship carrying relief supplies on behalf of the United Charities’ Shipping Organization, were seized themselves instead. But the abortive attempt raises several puzzling questions. What was British grocery scion Amir Khan doing in such flagrantly illegal company? Why have hijackers been targeting UCSO ships lately, especially those with unusually high-value cargos? Is there a leak inside UCSO that’s tipping off its enemies? When Liz Carlyle interviews Amir in a French prison, his characterization of himself as an innocent bystander is so laughably glib that Liz is certain he’s linked to some nefarious plot. But her own colleagues are anything but helpful in connecting the dots. Mitchell Berger, who heads UCSO’s Athens office, never gets around to mentioning that he’s ex-CIA. Geoffrey Fane, Liz’s opposite number at MI6, who’d rather share his bed than his plans with her, secretly plants a junior op inside UCSO’s Athens office, then acts blandly surprised when she gets herself killed. Liz’s most readily forthcoming colleague is Salim Alavi, aka Boatman, an agent inside the Birmingham mosque at which he studied with Amir, who supplies useful intel right up until the moment his cover is blown. And when Fane urges that an agent be placed undercover on the next voyage of the Aristides, Liz insists that it be one of her own, intelligence officer Dave Armstrong, only to see him removed from the ship by pirates who clearly know what a prize they’ve captured. Luckily, Liz, equally undistracted by her conflicts with her alleged mates and her romance with her French counterpart Martin Seurat, remains all business and foils plot after plot.
Though the incessantly buzzing threat board may give you more headaches than thrills, the densely imagined counterterrorist culture Rimington creates beneath the tradecraft is as compelling as ever.