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Secret Asset

(Liz Carlyle #2)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  2,691 ratings  ·  187 reviews
With her debut novel,At Risk, Stella Rimington established herself as a top-notch thriller writer, and introduced us to Liz Carlye-a smart, impassioned MI5 intelligence officer whose talents and ambitions are counterbalanced by an abiding awareness of her job's moral complexities. In Secret Asset, we are plunged back into her high-stakes, high-tension world.
Liz has alw
Hardcover, 319 pages
Published June 19th 2007 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published August 3rd 2006)
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Rosee Macdonald Secret Asset can be read as a stand-alone novel, but I did read 'At Risk' a while before, & would recommend that it is read first.…moreSecret Asset can be read as a stand-alone novel, but I did read 'At Risk' a while before, & would recommend that it is read first.(less)
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Simon Taylor
Aug 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
The former Director General of MI5 has written a spy thriller. It should have been the equivalent of Jamie Oliver cooking you dinner or David Beckham teaching your kids how to play football. In fact, it was a bit like Bruce Forsythe telling you how to stay young. I don’t think I truly understood what an airport thriller was like until I read this.

The problem with Secret Asset isn’t just that it wasn’t good enough to be good, it also wasn’t bad enough to be bad. At least bad books have the decenc
Nov 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting procedural interludes kept me reading through this MI5 tale which ties together the home-bred terrorism of the Northern Irish conflict with today's challenges from radicalized young Islamists. Rimmington's style can be rather didactic and strait-laced and , for me, she fails to bring alive the characters. But she clearly knows what she is writing about and the underlying theme of conflicted loyalties is nicely woven through the novel. I'm going to try some more Liz Carlyle books as I ...more
James Piper
Jan 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book.

The MI5 is the internal force in the UK to fight terrorists and spies. (MI6 works outside the UK). The author worked as its head before retiring. Her inside knowledge results in a more realistic storyline.

There's some action, suspense, some mystery but it's not over-the-top like US writers (Thor / Flynn).
Jackie Harrison
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I gave this book 5 stars as it kept me guessing for quite a while trying to work out who the mole was and what damage they planned to do. It was a perfect holiday puzzle as clues and red herrings were dropped into text. However, once I’d guessed and then had it confirmed the rest of the book seemed to fizzle out a little for me. Don’t expect gory, violent scenes though as even the violence seems to be clinically passed over. I’m looking forward to Liz’s next adventure.
Mal Warwick
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sohail Din, a young Pakistani-British man, has postponed entry into law school for a year to serve as an undercover source for MI5. His agent runner, Liz Carlyle, returns from leave to find that Din has reported a visit by a notorious radical Pakistani imam to the Islamist bookstore where he works. There, the sheikh met with three young British men of Pakistani origin who are suspected of radical sympathies.

Suddenly, the inter-agency Counter-Terrorist Committee finds itself with a high-priority
Apr 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Dame Stella has the gift of plot and pace. The set-ups are done competently and she has the gift, possibly unappreciated, of encouraging the reader to turn the page.
I suspect that Stella - who became the first female head of Britain's counter-espionage outfit MI5, is a very methodical and tough cookie indeed and possibly not one for lively banter and small talk. Her heroine seems rather a cold fish at time and certainly there are few interludes where the more human sides of the protagonists come
Bill Wilson
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
My first book by this author, and it's a compliment to her that I was delighted to learn there are at least six more in this series. Very good read, with two seemingly unrelated plot threads that come together skillfully in an unexpected way. You have to like your suspense in a more cerebral sense, as there's little of the slam bang, shoot-em-up, blow-em-up of some others in this genre. Also quite interesting how she gets to the bottom of the villain's motives, finding that personal vendettas ar ...more
Jan 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: library, 2013
This is another perfectly acceptable spy-thriller from Rimington. I continue to wish that Peggy was the main character, and I guessed the twist about halfway through. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book - I adore books about competent people being competent, and it did give me a few thinky thoughts about England and Ireland and the entanglement of the two countries through the years. Basically this book does what it sets out to do, very competently. Just like its characters. ...more
Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Oh my Stella writes a good book, not ready any before but will get the other two she has written, if you like a crime/thriller I highly recommend this
Jun 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book written by someone who had inside knowledge of MI5.
Mick Scrimshaw
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book by Stella Riminghton I’ve read. In a way I think I’ve always been put off by knowing that she was once the head of MI5 because while this should obviously add authenticity to her spy stories, part of me wondered if it was just some kind of clever marketing ploy and her stories were perhaps just as fantastic as any other writers but sold more because simply her publishers were cashing in on her past job. I guess we’ll never know for sure, but having read Secret Asset I must ...more
Rhonda Powling
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Liz Carlyle is a young, smart and enterprising MI5 agent. She is excited to be back at work and a little nervous following several months away after a harrowing mission where she suffered injuries as they found their quarry.
One of her strengths is assessing people. After a meeting with one of her agents, Sohail (codename Marzipan) in a cafe in north London, where he reports suspicious meetings taking place at an Islamic bookshop, she trusts her instincts and believes that there is a terrorist c
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Following the stressful operation detailed in At Risk, MI5 intelligence officer Liz Caryle had been on extended leave. Almost the first message she receives on her return is an urgent communication from one of her agents, who has garnered what seems to be very valuable information about a potential terrorist threat. Meanwhile, she has also been assigned, at the specific request of the Director General, to conduct a covert investigation following evidence suggesting the possibility that a ‘mole’ ...more
Sarah Hearn
Jul 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The second Liz Carlyle book but my third. Since I just finished the first one recently, it was nice to get a quick following plot with the second. When Liz says she was off after a hospital stay, I knew why, when she talked to Charles Wetherby about his wife, I knew what was up there. This plot was completely different and yet very similar. We see more of the inside workings of MI5 with the different departments doing different tasks, so that’s similar to the first book, but the storyline is ver ...more
Jackie Cain
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I find Stella Rimington's novels compelling in the same way that I find the Val McD ones: the characters are intriguing and I want to know what they do next. So, I bought the next one as soon as I finished this!

But, to stick for the moment to Secret Asset, it has a very evocative opening - a domestic scene in the aftermath of the Irish "Troubles". After that it shows continuity, picking up the story of Liz Carlyle, her fellow agents and informants. It catches us up quite quickly with the back st
T. K. Elliott (Tiffany)
This is the second of Rimington's Liz Carlyle books; I read the first one too. Having read both, I'm now discerning a pattern: Liz Carlyle is not James Bond.

Liz works as part of a team, and there is paperwork and meetings, with different people contributing to the operation. There's a distinct lack of sexy foreign spies, car chases through picturesque parts of Europe, and really cool gadgets. Liz is doing a job, and so are her colleagues... all except one, who has a private project on the go.

Mar 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
One of the things I like about Stella Rimington is that, thus far, her books have not deviated from exactly what they are: a spy thriller. She adds no romance, nuance, or superfluous drama whatsoever, which I really appreciate (the last thing I wanted was a female James Bond here). I liked how you gain a sense of who the author is through her writing: it is not beautiful, but it's clear, concise, and gets the job done--a tone and style that is fitting for this genre. I also appreciate that Rimin ...more
John Sklar
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
Great book with a terrific plot and characters. I read the 10th in the series and decided to go back and read them all. This is book 2 and I can see the main character developing. She is smart, clever and sophisticated. I enjoyed the story very much. The book is very British to the point that I had to look up some slang and try to imagine some others.
As in all spy novels one has to decide if the events are plausable. This story is very real and the characters behave like real people, not superhe
Tom Maseth
Jul 04, 2019 rated it liked it
The second in the Liz Carlyle series. Liz is an agent with MI-5, Great Britain's internal security service / intelligence agency. Liz is investigating a tip-off that a mole has been planted in one of the branches of British Intelligence. The sleeper spy or “secret asset”, possibly a former IRA operative now working with British-born Al Qaeda sympathizers, has one thing on his (or her?) mind: total devastation. This is happening at the same time as Liz's colleagues are trying to encounter an impe ...more
Aug 20, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the second Liz Carlyle book, Liz is tasked with finding a mole within MI5.

Once again, Stella Rimington’s style of writing and detail impressed me. I love Liz Carlyle as a character, and she blossomed in this novel.

However, there are too many characters in this one, particularly in the middle third, it gets a bit too confusing trying to remember all the names and who is who! I tried reading passages a couple of times, which slowed down the story and made it a lot harder to follow.

So all in all
Ginny Kavanagh
Apr 08, 2018 rated it liked it
There is a mole in MI5 and a threatened Muslim terrorist attack looming. What seem like two separate story lines eventually do come together. The book, however, never really does. I liked our hero, Liz Carlisle, but the villain was not especially credible. I never bought into his motivation. And the ending was flat. It took me longer than usual to get through this one. It will not be one I remember. Not bad but just not special. This was the second in a series. I may try the first one. But it wi ...more
Allan Kernohan
Nearly good

For the majority of the book I found it very involving. The characters were interesting and the plot went along at a good pace. The absence of gratuitous violence and bad language and faux cynicism to be found in many thrillers was refreshing.
However, it fizzled out for me around the time the mole was revealed about two thirds of the way through and no longer held my interest after that. His motivation was analysed at the end but was apparent much earlier. Could have been good but wa
Kerry Swinnerton
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lots of things going on in this book and have to keep constantly trying to remember where each character fitted in. Maybe just a few too many characters to make the whole story flow for me although I found the book quite enjoyable on the whole. Think I’m starting to like Liz Carlyle but it’s difficult to like a character when there isn’t a great deal of character development there. The reader still knows very little about Liz, and that is the nature of her work, but she really doesn’t exist beyo ...more
Mar 18, 2020 rated it liked it
I’m reading this series in order and, like the first book, I enjoyed the read and thought it was a solid book but not as good as many crime/spy novels I’ve read. I will continue to read the series though.

Ms. Rimmington's style is a little stiff and, for me, there isn’t as much character development as I’d like. Two books into the series and we barely know anything about the main players. The plot seems to follow the same pattern as the first by not waiting until the very end to break the suspens
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this - I may have just found a new favourite writer to read! I will read another of Stella's books and see if this was a one off good plot and story line or an ongoing thing! Must say it is a little while since I have stayed up way past midnight reading a book but I was guilty of doing this just to see if my guess about who the mole was was correct! A great read, not difficult but enjoyable and a good, realistic plot. ...more
Christine Ottaway
May 13, 2020 rated it liked it
I am re-reading these books and enjoying them.

This is number two of the Liz Carlyle books and covers the topic of a mole in MI5 who has transferred their dissatisfaction from Britain in Ireland to aid an Islamic extremist plot.

This novel is not nearly as good as Rip Tide the first novel in the series which I still think is probably the best. Nevertheless it is a good read shedding Stella Rimington's interesting light and insights into the working of MI5 and MI6.
Aug 18, 2020 rated it liked it
'Secret assets' are agents who are in place long enough time to be well integrated into the organisation they are infiltrating. Had there been an IRA mole in MI5? Is there any connection to contemporary threats from Islamic fundamentalists? The story was compelling at first but I identified the culprit early on and the ending was disappointing. This just made 3 stars for me but I will probably continue the series. It offers quick, escapist reading. ...more
Becky Motew
Jun 20, 2021 rated it really liked it

You only guess the right person when SR wants you to and I call that good writing. SR has massive cred of course from her career at the helm of MI5. I gulped this down in a day and a half. It moves forward at a modest pace and yet the suspense is ever-tightening.

A mole is discovered from an unlikely source and Liz Carlyle chases it down. Love all the tradecraft and also love Liz, who is surely modeled after her author.
Ruth Brumby
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was interested in the way terrorism was investigated in terms of ordinary people, who were mostly quite believable. I liked the portrayal of the heroine as an ordinary woman in a largely male world. The competent writing and plot kept me engrossed, so this functioned well as a light read between more demanding books, but even at this level the book lacked ideas and reflection.
Tim Corke
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a big fan of Rimington's novels; they're not too deep but contain a degree of realism that can only be assumed comes from her immediate knowledge and experience. It's a good blend. Carlyle as a main character also seems very true to life and relatable. She's not a super-cop but equally knows her stuff. More of the same please :)

Read in a oner, great stuff!
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Dame Stella Whitehouse Rimington joined the Security Service (MI5) in 1968. During her career she worked in all the main fields of the Service: counter-subversion, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism. She was appointed Director General in 1992, the first woman to hold the post. She has written her autobiography and nine Liz Carlyle novels. She lives in London and Norfolk.

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Other books in the series

Liz Carlyle (10 books)
  • At Risk (Liz Carlyle, #1)
  • Illegal Action (Liz Carlyle, #3)
  • Dead Line (Liz Carlyle, #4)
  • Present Danger (Liz Carlyle, #5)
  • Rip Tide (Liz Carlyle, #6)
  • The Geneva Trap (Liz Carlyle, #7)
  • Close Call (Liz Carlyle, #8)
  • Breaking Cover (Liz Carlyle #9)
  • The Moscow Sleepers (Liz Carlyle #10)

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“Here conversation about Judith Spratt was not on the menu, since they sat surrounded by Fellows of the College. Most of them seemed to be men—somewhat to Liz’s surprise, since her view of Somerville had been formed by Dorothy Sayers’s Gaudy Night.” 0 likes
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