Book Review for “Her Secret War” by Pam Lecky.
Summary: “On 31st May 1941, Germany drops bombs on neutral Dublin and Sarah Gillespie loses her family and home that fateful night. Days later, the man she loves leaves Ireland to enlist in the RAF. With nothing to keep her in Ireland and a burning desire to help the war effort, Sarah seeks refuge with relatives in Hampshire, England. But before long, Sarah’s family history catches up with her. Sarah is asked to prove her loyalty to Britain through uncovering a spy at Vickers Supermarine, the manufacturers of the legendary Spitfire fighter plane. But to progress with her mission, she must become involved with a fifth columnist. And so the most dangerous game she’s ever played ensues…”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Women, Fiction; Settings: Historical, Ireland – Dublin; England – Hampshire; Other Categories: Novel, WWII, Spy Thriller, Mystery.
Oh, look, an historical fiction novel that has a chronologically told story, set only during the era of the main action! Honestly, that was truly a relief for me, after having read several books lately where the dual-timelines were simply unnecessary and frankly, annoying. I get it, it can be really great if done right, but it is starting to become a cliché, and one of the reasons I like historical fiction is to read stories set in the past. So, when a novel has a modern timeline, I feel like I’m being cheated. That’s why I was so glad to read this book, which takes place within a few months. This gives the story a very tight feel to it, which, because it involves intrigue, is excellent for building suspense. Now, there’s a blogger who reads these reviews of mine who might still kvetch about this novel because it is about a woman who is involved in this undercover scheme. She’s said that she’s sick and tired of WWII female spies (asking if there weren’t any men doing any spying back then), but I think that because Sarah isn’t technically a spy here, she might be willing to give this one a go.
While there is a touch of romance in this book, it certainly can’t be considered a romance novel, because the main focus here is on Sarah’s recruitment to help stop a possible intelligence leak that might be occurring from inside this factory that builds Spitfire planes. That makes this a twist on the usual WWII intrigue plots, which I also appreciated. Another difference is how Sarah’s Dublin roots are used against her within England, since the independent Ireland was, at the time, trying to be neutral in the war. I knew this was a fact, but what I didn’t know was that both England and Germany tried to pull Ireland into the war for their respective sides. This made me wonder just how possible it was that some anti-Allied operatives came from Ireland. Certainly, it also makes sense that some of the Irish who disagreed with their government’s stance volunteered to fight the Nazis. I’m sure there must have been some on either side, but it is a topic that seems to have been ignored, until now.
Obviously, the main question is, did Lecky succeed in getting us to believe these twists, and did Lecky also get us to sympathize with Sarah and her plight. I have to say that yes, for the most part, I found Sarah to be a very sympathetic character, and that Lecky was able to devise a plot where Sarah’s inner struggles made sense and felt very realistic. That said, I also found Sarah to be somewhat naïve, which didn’t sit too terribly right with me. Maybe it was my own naturally suspicious character that comes out when reading any mystery that kicked in, but I wasn’t convinced of everyone’s sincerity here, and that led me to suspecting what might happen, and figuring out who the real traitors were, all well before the actual climax and reveal. Now, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t some good suspenseful scenes here, because there were a few. Plus, there was one twist that I didn’t see coming at all, and that’s certainly in Lecky’s favor.
In addition, I also liked Lecky’s very open and natural writing style, which never overpowered the story. However, I’m thinking that a touch more lyricism, especially given to Sarah with her inner thoughts, might have made her even more sympathetic for me, and as much as I liked Sarah, I didn’t fall in love with her. Finally, Lecky seems to have left us with a cliffhanger here, so I’m wondering if Sarah will be appearing in a sequel or not. All things considered, I can recommend this novel, and I think it deserves a very healthy four stars out of five (and we shall see if that’s good enough to pull me into reading a whole series of Sarah Gillespie novels, if they’re in the offing).
Avon Books (a division of Harper Collins) released “Her Secret War” by Pam Lecky in the UK on October 14, 2021, and it will be released in the US on January 4, 2021. This book is (or will be) available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (free worldwide delivery), Foyles, Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Walmart (Kobo) US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via Edelweiss.