Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity starts in the torture room of a Nazi occupied French hotel during World War II.  Beaten into submission by a cruel Nazi agent, a British agent known as Queenie writes down everything she knows about the allied war effort.  Queenie knows what will happen when she has revealed all her secrets.  Nacht und nebel, her captors call it, night and fog—an innocuous sounding term for the “disposal” of those no longer needed by the Third Reich.  So Queenie drags out her writing sessions, meting out Allied secrets piecemeal within the larger story of her best friend Maddie’s rise from working class motorcycle mechanic through the ranks of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).

As each written word draws Queenie closer to her end, Maddie waits for her return near a secret landing strip in the French countryside.  Eventually, it becomes clear that her friend has been captured, and Maddie joins the group of Allied spies and couriers to rescue Queenie and salvage their mission.  But even in weakness, Queenie has not lost the craftiness that made her an ideal spy.  She may yet find a way to get her friends the information they need to complete their mission and to save her from her tormentors.

Elizabeth Wein’s well-researched novel arose out of the author’s curiosity about the options available to female pilots during World War II.  Though she admits to taking one or two liberties with the facts, Wein has created believable characters and a clever plot.  It is so clever, in fact, that when I reached the end of this book, I wanted to start at the beginning again to look for all the hidden secrets I had missed on my first time through.

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