I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour of City of Spies. Thank you to Tracy Fenton and Zaffre Books for inviting me to take part. Before I share my thoughts, here’s the blurb.
LISBON, 1943: When her cover is blown, SOE agent Elisabeth de Mornay flees Paris. Pursued by the Gestapo, she makes her way to neutral Lisbon, where Europe’s elite rub shoulders with diplomats, businessmen, smugglers, and spies. There she receives new orders – and a new identity.
Posing as wealthy French widow Solange Verin, Elisabeth must infiltrate a German espionage ring targeting Allied ships, before more British servicemen are killed.
The closer Elisabeth comes to discovering the truth, the greater the risk grows. With a German officer watching her every step, it will take all of Elisabeth’s resourcefulness and determination to complete her mission.
But in a city where no one is who they claim to be, who can she trust?
With the 75th anniversary of the end of WW2, many stories have started to emerge about the women who took part in the war effort. For decades we’ve known about the WRENs, the Women’s Land Army and those who went to work in munitions factories. However it’s only in recent years, and particularly around the anniversary, that others have spoken about their more secret jobs. Women weren’t just typists at Bletchley but code breakers too. My favourite story is about the 13 year old girl who helped her father design the Spitfire. However, the women who really risked their lives were part of the SOE – Special Operations Executive – female spies who were parachuted behind enemy lines. They were highly trained in various ways and their contribution to the war effort was huge. Mara Timon plays tribute to these women with her debut novel City of Spies.
We hit the ground running in this thrilling novel. Elisabeth de Mornay, a SOE agent, has to flee Paris when someone informs on her. The journey back to Britain is fraught with danger both from the Germans and the Resistance. Trust is a long-lost virtue in wartime. Surviving is a day-to-day occurrence. When she finally makes it to Lisbon, supposedly neutral, Elisabeth is given a new task and a new alias as Solange Verin, a wealthy French widow. Instead of evading the Germans, she has to get up close and personal, something which will take nerves of steel.
It’s abundantly clear that Mara Timon has done her research. There’s a cast of characters provided at the beginning which is a mixture of fictional characters and real people. Often the real people are only name-checked but it provides authenticity. Likewise part of the plot is based on true events that happened in Portugal but I don’t want to give any spoilers away!
This is a fast-paced story. Solange may appear to be living it up in neutral Lisbon but the spy is constantly on the look-out and discovers the Germans aren’t her only enemies. The threats weave in and out of each other. Surviving with a smile on her face doesn’t prove easy. As well as being fast-paced, the tension is constantly there. Will Solange get the information she needs? Will her cover be blown? Will she survive and make it back to Britain? Of course I can’t tell you what happens, you’ll have to read it for yourself.
I’m not normally a fan of spy fiction but I enjoyed this hugely, not least because the ending suggests a sequel. I really hope it does. Elisabeth de Mornay is too good a character to restrict to one book and the war isn’t over yet.
You can buy City of Spies here.
Or buy a copy from your local independent bookshop.
About the Author
Raised in New York Mara Timon moved to the UK almost 20 years ago; and fell in love with London and the way it melds the old and the new. Growing up with one parent fascinated with literature and the other with history, she started writing from an early age, although it wasn’t until a programme on the BBC caught her interest, and one ‘what if’ led to another, and another, that her first book began to take shape.
City of Spies is her debut novel.
And you can hear more about City of Spies when Mara joins First Monday Crime on Monday 5th October. Follow First Monday Crime on Facebook and watch the livestream.