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At Risk: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – May 30, 2006

2.4 out of 5 stars 367 customer reviews
Book 1 of 8 in the Liz Carlyle Novels Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The woman who formerly headed Britain's intelligence service (and what would Ian Fleming have made of that?) comes in from the cold with a smart, clever, and brilliantly paced thriller that seems ripped from the headlines--if not today's, then probably tomorrow's. Liz Carlyle is an agent-runner in MI-5's Joint Counter-Terrorist Group, which is facing the ultimate intelligence nightmare; an "invisible," a terrorist who's an ethnic native of the target country and thus able to cross its borders unchecked and move around its environs unquestioned. All Liz and her team have to go on is the suspicion that a local fisherman who was shot with an unusual armor-piercing gun known to be favored by foreign agents and whose body was found in the restroom of a transport café near a smuggler's beach may have been involved in helping an undercover operative known as "Vengeance Before God" enter England without benefit of passport or visa--a man whose mission, if not his identity, has been the subject of recent intelligence "chatter" from militant Muslim sources. And while Liz thinks she knows who the operative is--an Afghani with forged papers last seen in a German port city--she doesn't have a clue about the "invisible" who's helping him, or the target in their crosshairs.

This is a tightly drawn, expertly told tale that wastes few words in describing the shadowy world of the intelligence services, the turf battles and infighting, and even the romantic entanglements that attend the lives of those involved. It marks a promising second career for its author, whose future success will doubtless be much more public than her earlier accomplishments. --Jane Adams --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The first woman director general of Britain's MI5, Rimington speaks smartly about workplace issues while ratcheting the tension high in her authoritative debut thriller. Enter Liz Carlyle, an agent-runner with a taste for vintage clothes; her married lover, Mark Callendar, whom she doesn't love; and an appealing head of section, Charles Wetherby. You don't need Liz's deductive powers to figure out that Wetherby will eventually succeed Mark, who terminally annoys Liz by leaving his wife. Liz is married to her job. Small wonder: it doesn't get more exciting than this. The Islamic Terror Syndicate (ITS) may be about to deploy an "invisible"—"an ethnic native of the target country"—and only Liz can pull together all the threads. Rimington infuses the chase with moral complexity by making the invisible a real human being, no matter that she boasts a fake name and has "become a cipher, a selfless instrument of vengeance, a Child of Heaven." Most of the characters feel authentic, although Rimington occasionally goes on about strangers briefly glimpsed and introduces several wryly flirtatious male agents too many. She is open about having had an assist with the structure of the book, but the voice rings true, and she keeps faith with a genre she clearly venerates.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (May 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400079810
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400079810
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (367 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I don't usually write negative reviews even when I don't like a particular book. But in this case, I have to make an exception. As usual, I rushed out to get At Risk just as soon as the local bookstore opened with it (sorry about that Amazon....in the case of Cornwell books, I usually just can't wait!). Finished it in a couple of hours and felt like throwing it against the wall.

It's a real stretch to believe that the same person who wrote Cruel and Unusual, The Body Farm, From Potter's Field and Unnatural Exposure could have written this book. The dust jacket says it was originally written as a fifteen-part serial for a magazine, and it shows. Very little plot continuity with disjointed leaps all over the place; little, if any, meaningful character development; even the usual sterling scientific minutiae we've come to expect from a Cornwell book is superficial and mostly unexplained.

I have been a loyal fan of Cornwell's since I first stumbled across Postmortem. I even enjoyed her efforts in the Andy Brazil series that most everyone else hated. But in all honesty, At Risk seems like she felt obligated to get another book out in a hurry and just threw this one together. The dust jacket says "...this is the master working at the top of her game." If this is the top of Cornwell's game she's at risk of losing her legions of fans.

Not worth the time or money, folks.
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Format: Hardcover
At Risk is an interesting novel. It is much shorter than Patricia Cornwell's previous books, with new characters within the medical examiner/police framework. However, in this case, the mystery story is weak, the characters forgettable, and the motivations and plot are, frankly, unclear. It seems as if this is the prelude for a deeper, richer story, not a complete story in itself. The wordsmithing isn't quite up to my expectations of her standard work. All in all, this book reads like a rush job, an editorial demand that a book, whether ready or not, had to come out prior to the start of the summer reading season.

I'm not the biggest fan of Patricia Cornwell's more recent work. Body Farm, to me, was her best book. Since Body Farm, the characters in her books (and their behaviors) are getting more bizarre, as are the crimes.

Let's hope Cornwell's stories improve at the same rate our crime-fighting technologies advance.... quickly. This book needs to go back into the incubator... it's not ready to hatch.
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Format: Hardcover
Having worked at a library for more years than I care to tell, I have seen Cornwell's novels consistently snatched from the shelves the moment they arrived. She has been on my "to read" list for ages and this book seemed like a good way to get acquainted with her work.

However, after reading about two-thirds of the book, I couldn't take any more. Nobody likes anybody. Heck, they don't even like themselves! Now, I'm no Pollyanna, but shouldn't SOMEONE have SOME kind of positive interaction or relationship with SOMEBODY?

Don't get me wrong - any good tale needs tension and adversarial relationships, but an entire volume of insecure, mean-spirited internal dialogue is not my idea of a good read. I don't even care enough to finish the book.

I can't help thinking that this author must be better than this, or she wouldn't be so popular. Maybe once I get the taste of "At Risk" out of my mouth, I'll try one of her others.
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Format: Hardcover
Stella Rimington's "At Risk" is everything a spy novel should be. It's timely, intricate, deeply psychological, action-packed, and suspenseful. The heroine is Liz Carlyle, a member of M15, Britain's domestic military intelligence division. She has risen in the ranks because she is super-competent, extremely sharp, and obsessed with being the best at what she does. Liz has sacrificed the very idea of home and family; she is married to her job.

When Liz gets together with her colleagues in the Joint Counter-Terrorism Group, she learns that Islamic terrorists may be deploying an "invisible" to stage an attack in Great Britain. An "invisible" is an individual who is Western in appearance and has the credentials to blend into his or her surroundings undetected by the authorities. When the mysterious killing of a shadowy figure named Ray Gunter occurs soon after this information is released, alarm bells go off. Gunter was shot with a special type of sophisticated weapon that would unavailable to an ordinary street thug. In addition, Gunter may have been involved in the smuggling of illegal immigrants into England. Could one of these illegals be a terrorist at large? This gives Liz and her team all of the ammunition that they need to start an investigation into a possible act of violence to be carried out in the near future on English soil.

The characters in "At Risk" are all skillfully depicted. Besides Liz, there is her steady boss, Wetherby, who seems to understand Liz better than she does herself. Much to her chagrin, Liz is suddenly forced to work with Bruno Mackay, a member of M16, Britain's foreign military intelligence division, who knows a great deal about the Pakistani terrorist scene.
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