Six More Books about Brave Female Spies
Tough women, secrets and smarts, and sneaky spying!
I love a peek at a secret world and books about spies specifically. My first Greedy Reading List on this topic was Six Books about Brave Female Spies.
If you like stories about brave women during wartime, you might also like the titles I listed on the recent Greedy Reading List Six Great Stories about Brave Women During World War II.
01 Miss Graham's Cold War Cookbook by Celia Rees
Rees does an excellent job of taking us through Edith's amateur spy struggle and provides fascinating details of life in Germany at the end of World War II.
It's 1945, and Edith Graham is a small-town British schoolteacher who is thrilled to sign on with the British Control Commission to help get schools back up and running for the children in war-torn Germany.
Edith has a degree in German (and, more importantly and unbeknownst to her, an old connection to a hunted war criminal), and she's recruited by the Office of Strategic Services. She'll keep her cover by assisting with schools while actually trying to help locate Nazis.
The details Rees provides of this confused time in the world are wonderful: the complicated workings of different groups' postwar efforts; the bombed--or jarringly lush and untouched--settings; the creative, sometimes alarming dietary options; and the clothes and fashion. It's clear that she thoroughly researched all of these aspects.
I found the author's note about her inspiration for the book's hook and story line really interesting.
For my full review, check out Miss Graham's Cold War Cookbook.
02 Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams
Williams's historical fiction mystery--based on real-life double agents in the Cambridge Spy Ring--is vividly set in Europe and Russia and was a rare five-star read for me.
In Beatriz Williams's historical fiction novel Our Woman in Moscow, it's 1948, and Iris Digby, her American diplomat husband Sasha, and their two children have disappeared overnight. Those who knew and worked with them are shocked. Were the Digbys abducted by Soviet agents...or did they make their way by choice behind the Iron Curtain with a suitcase of American secrets to trade?
In Williams's historical fiction mystery, which skips back and forth in time, four years later, Iris's twin sister Ruth finally receives a postcard from her estranged sister. Ruth is soon on her way to Russia to try to extricate Iris from danger--but the truth about Iris's marriage and past is more complicated and fraught than Ruth could have imagined.
I loved this. Every heart-stopping moment; every exquisite detail; the characters' growth, emotional distance, and unforeseen connections to each other; the trick of teasing out what was actually happening; the characterization; the machinations--all of it.
For my full review of this book, please see Our Woman in Moscow.
03 A Murder by Any Name by Suzanne M. Wolfe
Wolfe's book was a fun, quick read with wonderful Elizabethan-era detail.
Many of the characters in A Murder by Any Name were lovely, faulted, and interesting, and the dialogue was great.
The character of the brothel madam with a heart of gold has probably been overdone in literature. In this case, Kat wasn’t fully developed as a character so she felt more like a concept than a real person.
But Wolfe's book was a fun, quick read that kept me engaged the whole way through. I also enjoyed the second book in this series, A Course of All Treasons.
I looove a historical fiction mystery. If you do too, you might want to check out the titles on the Greedy Reading List Six Historical Fiction Mysteries to Intrigue You.
For my full review of this title, please see A Murder by Any Name.
04 The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck
Robuck shaped the real-life figure of Virginia Hall into a courageous, idealistic, determined, and imperfect heroine I was intrigued by.
The Invisible Woman is historical fiction about the real-life World War II-era spy Virginia Hall. Erika Robuck makes Hall appealingly realistic, with faults, desires, idealism, and an astounding baseline level of bravery that leads to realistically messy, sometimes tragic situations--and occasionally glorious victories.
Hall, an American working for the UK, was a trainer of the French Resistance despite the physical limitations caused by her prosthetic leg (which she gained following a shooting accident). She's entrenched in enemy territory sending coded messages and drumming up supporters for the cause for longer than most agents manage to survive, so she has a persistent feeling of being on borrowed time.
I found the number of typos here distracting, but I really enjoyed Robuck's writing style, the details of the time, the pacing of the book's events, and the rich cast of secondary characters she brought to life.
For my full review of this book, check out The Invisible Woman.
05 The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
Kate Quinn makes the urgency of World War II code breaking come alive through the stories of three young women and their interconnected destinies in The Rose Code.
The Rose Code is a wonderfully spun historical fiction story of three very different women who answer the wartime call to England's top-secret Bletchley Park in order to break the military codes of the Axis powers.
The book jumps between 1940, the beginning of the women's forays into their secret duties and responsibilities, and 1947, as the royal wedding of Prince Philip (the former beau of one of our Bletchley ladies) and Princess Elizabeth approaches--a period when one of the Bletchley sisterhood is tucked away in an asylum following a terrible betrayal.
Quinn offers plenty of interpersonal conflict, romance, suspected double-crossing, and details of life within both timelines, and in her hands, the descriptions of code-breaking mechanisms and the detailed, complicated, elusive process of figuring out messages were captivating.
For my full review of this title, please see The Rose Code.
6 Agent Sonya: Moscow's Most Daring Wartime Spy by Ben McIntyre
Ursula Burton, an unassuming mother and wife, was a legendary real-life spy who evaded capture by China, the Nazis, MI6, and the FBI. She was known by the code name Sonya.
The nonfiction Agent Sonya: Moscow's Most Daring Wartime Spy is made up of vividly recounted behind-the-scenes peeks at real-life Cold War intrigue from the talented author Ben Macintyre.
Ursula Burton lived a quiet life with her children and husband in a small English village. She spoke with a slight accent and kept largely to herself.
But Ursula was actually a high-ranking Soviet intelligence officer sending and receiving secret wireless signals, managing a network of agents across Europe, and maintaining her rabidly dedicated Communist views. The unassuming-seeming mother and wife was actually a legendary spy who evaded capture by China, the Nazis, MI6, and the FBI. She was known by the code name Sonya.
The book explores clashes of ideology; the challenges of a woman pursuing spy work; and general, often brutal sacrifice for the cause. Ursula's husband, portrayed as somewhat of a fool, suffers terribly in a foreign prison for his too-obvious support of the Communist cause.
For my full review of this book, please see Agent Sonya.
Macintyre also wrote the fantastic Spy and the Traitor, which was one of my Six Favorite Nonfiction Books of the Year last year and which I also listed on the Greedy Reading List Six Compelling Nonfiction Books that Read Like Fiction.