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The Geneva Trap – Stella Rimington

The Geneva Trap
Stella Rimington
Bloomsbury Publishing
2012, 328p
Copy courtesy Bloomsbury ANZ

In Geneva, a Russian spy approaches an employee of MI5 and requests to speak to only one person: Liz Carlyle of MI6. After they figure out precisely who he is and what his connection is to Carlyle (and how he even knows about her) a meeting is arranged between the two of them in Geneva.

He gives Carlyle some valuable information: he tells her of a secret joint operation between the UK and the US that has been infiltrated by someone from a third country (but that third country isn’t Russia). At first the information seems pretty out there – after all no one has even heard of this joint mission. But once Carlyle does some digging she finds out that it does indeed exist. The Russian has said that the leak is coming from the London end of the operation even though all of the people working on the project have the utmost highest clearance in the land and have been strenuously checked by security.

In Nevada, a man operating a drone aircraft for testing is horrified when the drone suddenly begins ignoring his commands and taking on a life of his own. This happens once and everyone is on high alert but believe it to be a technical glitch. When it happens a second time and the drone goes down, the information the Russian has given appears to be correct. Someone has cracked the encrypted coded software that controls the drones and can now give the drone commands. This kind of cyber terrorism could be catastrophic.

People are torn as to who exactly is behind this. Their Russian contact swore that it wasn’t his own country but there are some that aren’t willing to believe that – who else could it be? How do Russia even know about it if they aren’t involved in some way? As Liz and her team race to hunt down the mole inside the secret project they uncover a plot of money laundering and designs of cyber terrorism that could change the superpowers of the planet entirely.

The Geneva Trap is the seventh novel in Stella Rimington’s Liz Carlyle MI6 series dealing with international espionage. It’s the first I’ve read, which is unusual for me as my preference is to read a series in order but given this is the seventh installment I didn’t have enough time to track down the previous six and get them all read before this one’s release date! However I do believe these can easily be read stand alone. Characters are explained, roles are explained, country relations are explained. I never felt lost or confused and although there are a lot of characters here and quite a few organisations (a lot of which are abbreviated) it’s quite easy to follow what’s going on.

Liz is quite a capable character, obviously you don’t get where she is by not being good at what you do. She’s calm, measured and tolerant even when she needs to deal with people you can tell that she doesn’t particularly like and unlike others she seems to try not to show this and also attempt not to let it affect working relations. She’s someone that interests me, it seems that this novel is the first time that why she joined MI6 is stated, as it has to do with the person that needs to speak to her. I don’t know much about how her career progressed so obviously there are some gaps but the book doesn’t concern itself a huge amount with her life away from the particular investigation at the time. You do meet her family and she does get involved in a mystery there and you do deal with her partner but that seems to be very much a supporting plot to the one about the cyber terrorism. The book doesn’t get bogged down in familial life and dramas away from the one that’s threatening world security.

The cyber terrorism idea I found utterly fascinating, probably because in such an age as the one we’re in, you can do just about anything so long as you have a computer. You can work a lot of jobs, you can pay your bills, order your food, clothes and entertainment. Some people could probably get by just fine never leaving the house so long as they had a computer and an internet connection so why not be able to control drones from a different part of the world? In the future any wars may be fought from remote locations using a variety of weapons manned in such a way as these drones. The idea that other countries could hack into these secure, encrypted systems and use that as a base to serve their own agendas is quite frightening!

I do think that sometimes the characters were a little cliched depending on their nations but overall I found this a very enjoyable way to pass an afternoon, immersing myself in international espionage. I do intend to keep up with this series.

7/10

Book #180 of 2012

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