Code Name: Lise By Larry Loftis. (Gallery Books, 360 pages, $27.)
When she was inserted into France during World War II, her code name was Lise. Her real name was Odette Sansom, and she was about as unlikely a prospect for espionage as you could imagine. She was living in England and raising three children while her husband was away at war. But she was born and raised in France, so her command of the language made her an ideal candidate as a courier for British spies and saboteurs operating in occupied France.
Remarkably, she acceded to British recruitment efforts, placed her three girls in a boarding school and joined up with a cell of British agents in the south of France. Eventually, she was captured, tortured with a red hot iron, had all her toenails pulled out and was sent to a German concentration camp. But through it all she never cracked, thereby saving the lives of other British agents. A central element of this story is her love affair with her commanding officer in France named Peter Churchill — no relation to Sir Winston, but Sansom suggested otherwise to her captors, and that ploy helped her and Churchill survive. For her bravery, she was honored by Britain and France, making her the most highly decorated woman and the most decorated spy — man or woman — of World War II.
DENNIS J. MCGRATH
The Turn of the Key By Ruth Ware. (Scout Press, 336 pages, $27.99.)
A fetching advertisement for a well-paid nanny in a posh, remote home in the Scottish Highlands captures our main character's attention. Now working in a thankless day-care environment in sodden London, she carefully crafts a stellar résumé, draws up her courage and applies.
By the first few pages of the book, we know that Rowan has been accepted as the rich Elincourts' new nanny. We learn that other au pairs have fled the estate after a very short time, leaving the family desperate for a stable influence for their three wild children. And we learn that, in Rowan's early weeks on the job, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
A child is dead. Rowan is imprisoned. And her story is told as a flashback to an attorney whom she is begging to take her case.
Ruth Ware has spun a complex narrative — part ghost story, part deception thriller and part revenge tale laced with a longing for love and acceptance. This novel follows her first four successful psychological dramas with the same immersive writing, clever characters and delicious plot surprises. Readers think the story is headed one way only to be jerked back on course with a startling reveal. And this goes on and on with whiplash succession.
Stick with this one. Ware always saves the best for the end.