Monday, May 17, 2021

Book Review: The Secret Stealers

By Jami Denison

Female spies in occupied France is a captivating subgenre of World War II historical fiction. With books like The Alice Network (and a similar follow-up by author Kate Quinn, The Rose Code) and A Woman of No Importance, fans of the genre have lots to choose from. In her third novel, author Jane Healy explores this territory with The Secret Stealers, about a young American widow who becomes a spy for the Allies. 

Anna Cavanaugh is adrift after the death of her husband Connor. Although their marriage wasn’t working, she’s out of sorts and directionless. Fluent in French and German, rather than returning to her former job as a French teacher, she signs up to work as the personal assistant for OSS’s General Donavan, a personal family friend. Becoming fast friends with the other women who work there, Anna learns of overseas posts available. Having spent a year in France, she longs to return there to reconnect with old friends and a man who was more than a friend. But first, Anna needs to prove herself in D.C. She’s smart and she speaks three languages, but does she have what it takes to go undercover?

The Secret Stealers is a fast-paced, plot-driven adventure. Written in first person from Anna’s point-of-view, the voice is uncomplicated and breezy. Anna is determined to prove herself; having been married to a man who wanted her to play second fiddle, she wants to be taken seriously and run her own life. At the same time, her various romantic entanglements—and those of her friends—are just as important as the war that has set the world on fire.

Although The Secret Stealers is a fun, fast, quick read, for me, it was missing the gravitas that most books in this genre deliver. Anna is definitely a heroine to root for, but her motivation seems to be more about proving what she can do rather than helping to relieve the suffering of millions. While there are a few lines about the starving children in France and the work camps in Poland, author Healy spends little time having Anna grapple with the unimaginable horror of what the Nazis were doing. She is not a character who would tell an ex-lover that, “It doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

The Secret Stealers is not Casablanca, or The Nightingale. It will not make you cry for days on end after you finish it. But if you’re looking for a quick WWII read with a spunky, courageous heroine, The Secret Stealers could be it. 

Thanks to Get Red PR for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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