In a previous life, British author Stella Rimington was the head of MI5 that fabled organization's first female director general, in fact. She retired in 1996, and embarked upon a career of writing, first with her autobiography, Open Secret (2001), then with her debut novel, the gripping page-turner At Risk (2005). This month Rimington returns with a chilling post-9/11 novel of terrorism and espionage, Secret Asset. The title refers to an operative in the pay of one organization who infiltrates a second organization, usually that of a competitor or enemy. On his deathbed, Irish Republican Army legend Sean Keaney discloses a chilling secret: The IRA has placed a secret asset deep within the ranks of MI5. Intelligence officer Liz Carlyle is tasked with exposing the mole, if indeed he or she exists, and to do it quickly enough to head off a suspected terrorist attack. Meanwhile, in a nondescript neighborhood bookstore, a group of disaffected young men of Middle Eastern extraction eagerly anticipate their next meeting with the radical imam who fans the embers of their fanaticism into a raging brushfire. What is the connection, if any, between these two splinter groups? It will take all of Liz Carlyle's considerable talents to connect the dots and foil the perpetrators before they can carry out their suicidal (and homicidal) plan. As with Rimington's first novel, Secret Asset is a plot-driven and action-packed read, virtually unputdownable once started.

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