As a lover of spy novels I have to deal with the fact that, quite frankly, it is a pretty horribly sexist mode. Unlike fantasy, mysteries and even thrillers where I long ago made a commitment to 75% of my yearly reading being novels written by women, I give myself a pass when it comes to spy novels. The best I can do is avoid the misogynist stuff and champion the women writers when I find them.
Stella Rimington (former Director General of MI5, properly Dame Rimington) is such an author. I love her fiction because she traces all the simmering rivalries, tensions, and mistrust between the two premier branches of England’s “Secret State.” A tension I loved explored in Deighton’s work, in the Sandbaggers, heck it is some of the best parts of MI5 (Spooks). And she does it all by incorporating a lot of realistic insider background that I just eat up.
Liz Carlyle, the protagonist of these books, has a preoccupation with not becoming a marionette of her job and she seeks to find a balance in her life that many of her male fictional counterparts either ignore or devalue. She has found a priority that George Smiley only found too late in life.
In short, if you like spy novels go and read these. What are you waiting for?