Books: Tinker, Tailor, Novelist

As a British spymaster, Stella Rimington helped keep the world safe. Now she's keeping readers on edge

It's generally a bad sign when a book's author is more intriguing than its protagonist. But in the case of At Risk (Knopf; 367 pages) it really can't be helped. At Risk is a thriller about Liz Carlyle, a plucky young agent in MI5 (Britain's equivalent of the FBI) who spars with a roguish male sidekick while chasing a bomb-toting Islamic terrorist and his "invisible" (blond, British and female) co-conspirator. The book follows the standard spy-novel formula, though the formula works with surprising elegance--perhaps because its author, Stella Rimington, is a former director general of MI5 who spent 30 years foiling...

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