Inspired by true events beginning in 1944, and populated with characters who are composites of real-life heroes and villains, this meticulously researched and wonderfully evocative novel is WWII at its most chilling.
With WWII instead of the Cold War fueling the fear and desperation-driven machinery of war-time counter-intelligence and espionage, this book has all the intrigue of John le Carre wrapped in a softer, more emotive, and decidedly feminine cloak of suspense.
Elizabeth, our main protagonist, is a British agent, attached to the SOE (Special Operations Executive) as part of a network executing cloak-and-dagger field operations to provision arms and supplies to the French Resistance, – who are , for the most part, everyday French citizens, heroes in the underground fight against the Nazi regime.
Deployed to German-occupied France, with an assumed identity (and SOE-gifted magenta lipstick) Elizabeth encounters the vagaries of war at its most terrifying, all the more so in that her primary task concerns picking up a trail through a tragically failed field-mission to locate a missing agent – who is none other than her husband, Guy Maxwell.
Elizabeth is a wonderfully crafted character. Brave, intelligent, compassionate, tough and at times even brutal – she is also deeply in love and carrying all the internal baggage that comes with the raw terror stemming from her partners unknown fate.
With unsettling contrast against the bucolic backdrop of pastoral France; the “cloudless blue skies and warmth that lightened the soul” (not to mention the delightful hidden shared bottles of excellent “vin jaune”); the pace of the atrocities encountered is relentless, the danger constant, the suspense all the more alarming as the narrative contains mostly fictionalized accounts of real-life events.
“All I care about at this moment is that we’re still alive by the time this war ends”
I won’t tell you how it all ends (no spoilers here) but will say I found the finale satisfying and strangely enough, for a book overflowing with death and such extreme situational cruelty, I would even call it both heartwarming and uplifting.
A great big thank you to the author for an ARC of this book. All thoughts provided are my own.