Resistance by Mara Timon – a fast paced book of a woman on a mission in wartime France

Resistance by Mara Timon 

Tense, suspenseful and full of pace, this is a novel written with real style and insight into a dramatic time in twentieth century history. In May 1944 the war was at a significant point; but as the German forces were pressured they became more determined to stamp their authority on the people of occupied France. Into this maelstrom of danger and intrigue women are parachuted with a mission to help the existing Resistance forces to destabilise the German operatives. This is not just general sabotage; there is a need to pave the way for the Normandy landings. Three women must work together to combat the oppression of the occupying forces, but apart from their very individual approach to disruption and more, the forces of the Resistance are anything but united.

This is the continuation of the story of Elisabeth de Mornay, spy and warrior working with Special Operations Executive that began with the brilliant thriller “City of Spies”. A fierce fighter with a keen eye to any opportunity, she is a strong character with a past. This book would work well as a standalone as the characters are well presented, the situation is different from the exact circumstances of the first book, and this novel is so well written that it is extremely readable. It is a story of Elisabeth taking on new responsibilities in a unique situation with an unexpected role. There is realism to a frightening degree as this fast paced book keeps up with rapidly changing circumstances, and nothing is predictable for Elisabeth as she narrates her story. From the moment she hears of her assignment, she knows that she must be constantly watchful of absolutely everyone she encounters if she is to survive, let alone pursue her mission. I was extremely pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this thriller which expands on the acknowledged role of the real life female Special Operations Executive agents.

As the novel begins Elisabeth is working in her free time with those receiving secret and vital messages from the Resistance in London. Her colleague, Eileen, has picked up a message of a failed raid and subsequent arrests. Elisabeth, referred to as Cecile in this place, discovers that Virgil, a known radio operator or “pianist” is not actually transmitting despite his name, as the style is completely different. This impresses Vera Atkins, an intelligence officer for Maurice Buckmaster, head of section. Subsequently she is told that she is to be deployed to a dangerous place together with the icily efficient Leonie. They are to form two thirds of an elite Jedburgh unit, but from the first moment of a frightening flight into enemy territory things do not go to plan. Intriguingly, Elisabeth is keen to be sent into France in the hope that she will discover more about a special person, who she has not heard about for several months. 

This is the sort of book that I partly wanted to read quickly to discover what happened and why, but also became so involved that I wanted to make it last. Timon’s skill is partly in making even minor characters seem real, with depth and layers which are quickly created and established. As Elisabeth’s situation changes quickly, often with new dangers and risks to face, she must respond quickly and efficiently, sometimes ruthlessly. This is a fast paced thriller which is firmly based in a fluid wartime situation. At the back of the book there are historical notes on the organisations referred to in the book with indications of slight fictional changes for dramatic effect. Timon has created a narrator and central character who tells a story  which is sometimes brutal but always written with great compassion, a realistic and fast moving story which is virtually impossible to to put aside, and I accordingly recommend it as a brilliant and remarkable read.  

City of Spies by Mara Timon – a young woman in a wartime city balancing on the edge of neutrality


Realistically exciting and a thriller which maintains a breathless pace, this is an adventure in wartime Europe which expands on the already fascinating stories of female Special Operations Executive heroines. Elisabeth de Mornay is a woman with an obscure past, a perilous present, and an uncertain future. Operating on several levels Elisabeth herself is trying to work out which identity is most effective in a country which is balancing its alliances between German forces, the allies headed by British interests, and the disparate interests of Russians, Spanish and other nationalities all jostling for space and influence as seen in the large number of refugees in a small country. Elisabeth has discovered the high cost of being an agent in France over some time, as the danger of getting close to people as well as the danger of betrayal has left her determined to survive in any way. This is a brilliantly researched novel which revels in the details of a setting intimately described, the clothes that much of rationed Europe could only dream of, and the food and drink that seems to be little affected by shortages. Going under various guises she must work out who, if anyone, she can trust, when no one is completely as they seem.  This is a well written book which I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review. 


The book opens with Cecile recalling her time in France as a “pianist” or radio operative. Partly lucky, partly because she is brave and resourceful, she has survived thus far, but one more betrayal has propelled her to seek sanctuary with an older woman even though her very presence is a threat. Her training means that she knows when she is being followed, and what to do in hand to hand combat. She has an incredibly strong need to survive, which keeps her going even when under fire. A chance encounter leads to a whole new set of problems, and means that she turns up in Lisbon in June 1943. Her new setting means a new role with an old contact in a new context, an encounter which exposes several facts about her background. Slipping into the  role of a mysterious French widow who has recently arrived in Lisbon as a refugee from occupied France, she has the house, clothes and identity fabricated for her, but her own preparations means that she goes further to create other disguises in case of need. As she begins to blend in with a society of refugees and transitory residents of a country balancing on the edge of neutrality, the gossip, jealousies and dangers of a confusing place mean that she must constantly adjust her assumptions about those around her.


This is a book that is virtually impossible to put down when engaged with the adventures of a remarkable woman. I enjoyed Elisabeth’s story in France as she takes on huge challenges, but it is in Lisbon among a community of potential spies and military from Germany and other enemies that the narrative really comes alive as she must try to double guess everyone who she meets. The setting is beautifully described; the cafes, the parties, the streets and the countryside all come alive in glorious detail. The character of Elisabeth is a wonderful one, as she uses her intelligence and cunning to prepare as much as possible for threats and attempts on her life. A fast moving and enjoyable story with a warmth of personality which is memorable, I thoroughly recommend this remarkable novel. 

I feel really proud to be starting the blog tour for this wonderful book. In the back of the book there is an historical note about the elements of the story as researched by the author, and a question and answer section which gives more details about the writing of the novel. These additional sections are fascinating and well worth a read in their own right.