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.