by Manda Scott
Several things jump out at Capt. Inés Picaut as she pulls up to the train station car park where a body has been reported.
The first is the blood. The second is that the female victim is peaceful and hauntingly beautiful in the midst of the carnage — and old enough to be her grandmother.
The third is that the victim has been assassinated by a professional: two bullets to the chest and one to the head. Her tongue has been cut out as well.
The identity papers in her purse say she is Sophie Destivelle. But there’s no Sophie Destivelle in official databases.
The deeper Picaut digs to find out who would assassinate a 92-year-old woman, the more she is led to a World War II resistance group based near Saint-Cybard, France, in the Jura Mountains.
Author Manda Scott weaves this intriguing story across two timelines. One, beginning in June 1942, carries the story of the woman known as Sophie Destivelle and her comrades fighting against the Germans, in particular Sturmbann-Führer Maximilian Kramme of the Gestapo.
But these are people for whom the war does not end when the peace treaties are signed.
The second timeline begins in mid-March 2018 with Sophie Destivelle’s assassination. Picaut discovers the surviving members of the group have stayed connected even as they scattered and became leaders in business and government security in France and the United States. Those whom Picaut can identify and interview are polite but clearly not telling all.
This story becomes bigger as you turn the pages. Highly suspenseful, the story never loses touch with the people who drive it, even as the stakes become international. Courage, commitment, loyalty and love shape the action as does the suspicion that there is a double agent among them. As the characters have children and grandchildren, the missions of the wartime generation are carried forward into a frightening future.
One of the more terrifying aspects of this thriller is that it is partially based on the actual Operation Paperclip, in which more than 1,600 German scientists, engineers and technicians were taken from Germany to the United States and employed by the government between 1945 to 1959. Many were former members (and leaders) of the Nazi party.
While this secret program was justified on the basis of gaining military advantage during the Cold War and the Space Race, Scott and others ask the question, “What actually happens when the virus of Fascism is injected undiluted into the body politic of a sovereign nation?”
If you enjoyed this novel, you might also like Elizabeth Wein’s CODE NAME VERITY or Kate Quinn’s THE HUNTRESS.