The preface to the paperback edition of Open Secret talks of the challenges the security forces face combatting global terrorism. It’s an interesting analysis of the problems facing governments and democracies worldwide but, unfortunately, it doesn’t really set the tone for the rest of the book. The remainder is less threat-analysis and much more biographical.
The very personal nature of the book, and thus the lack of James Bond style bad-guy chasing, is only a disappointment to those who haven’t read anything about it. Open Secret does not set itself up to be a great spy catcher novel. It is the truly fascinating tale of a woman who appeared to join the Secret Service because she couldn’t really think of anything else to do and became the “housewife super-spy”.
Stella Rimington nicely touches on some of the history of MI5 and its role during the wars (world and cold) without turning Open Secret into a detailed historical work. It’s not a technical manual for sleuths either, nor does it contain the great revelations about our Secret Services than some have made out. It is a wonderful insight into the workings of a world that, at least for the part of her time, Stella could not admit existed. She tells of the struggles to bring up a family single-handed while battling the internal workings of a Service that did not expect women to rise to the top. It’s a fascinating insight and, perhaps, inspiring to some. Certainly it’s a book that, this reader at least, is very glad made got through the censorship.