Code Name: Lise by Larry Loftis #BookReview #BlogTour

The year is 1942, and World War II is in full swing. 
Odette Sansom decides to follow in her war hero father’s footsteps by becoming an SOE agent to aid Britain and her beloved homeland, France. Five failed attempts and one plane crash later, she finally lands in occupied France to begin her mission. It is here that she meets her commanding officer Captain Peter Churchill. 
As they successfully complete mission after mission, Peter and Odette fall in love. All the while, they are being hunted by the cunning German secret police sergeant, Hugo Bleicher, who finally succeeds in capturing them. 
They are sent to Paris’s Fresnes prison, and from there to concentration camps in Germany where they are starved, beaten, and tortured. But in the face of despair, they never give up hope, their love for each other, or the whereabouts of their colleagues. 
This is a portrait of true courage, patriotism and love amidst unimaginable horrors and degradation.

I am honoured to be hosting the blog tour for Code Name: Lise today. Many thanks to Larry Loftus and to Mel Sambells from Mirror Books for inviting me and for sending me a copy of the book.

It’s often said that truth is stranger than fiction and that’s certainly true of Code Name: Lise, the real-life story of Odette, an ordinary Frenchwoman who became the most highly decorated agent of World War Two. Her life has already been the topic of a film starring Anna Neagle but having not seen it, I was only vaguely aware of this extraordinary woman’s experiences.
Larry Loftis has cleverly written her biography as a spy thriller and it works brilliantly. The brief description of her early years explains that she grew up in Normandy but dreamed of marrying an Englishman. Her wish was fulfilled but although they had three daughters together, it evidently wasn’t a strong marriage and he barely seems to feature in her thoughts as she considers whether she should accept the important but highly dangerous job offered to her. As a native Frenchwoman, her knowledge of her country and her patriotic desire to do her bit for both Britain and France means that she is an ideal candidate to join the newly formed SOE - often better known as the Ministry for Ungentlemanly Warfare. However, she has her children to think about and as somebody who also has three daughters, I’m not sure whether I would have been courageous enough to make the same decision that she did.
After her intense training, Odette is eventually sent to France, although even that proves to be a far from straightforward procedure. It’s from this point that the book reads as a breathless thriller, with many chapters ending on a nail-biting cliffhanger; the precarious existence of these brave men and women makes for a tense and compelling read. The awful knowledge of hindsight means that the reader knows that Odette’s capture is inevitable but nevertheless the engaging descriptions of the mutual attraction and blossoming relationship between her and her commanding officer, Peter Churchill adds a further layer of poignancy and urgency to the proceedings.
This section of the book not only describes the perilous work carried out by Odette and Peter (alongside their radio operative, Arnaud), it also explains how the pair came to be arrested by master spy-catcher, Hugo Bleicher. I thought he was a fascinating man and I enjoyed having my biases challenged as I considered whether he should be despised because although he wasn’t cruel or sadistic, he knew what the fate of those he was responsible of sending to the Gestapo was almost certain to be, or if - as many on the British side believed - he was a man doing the role assigned him to the best of his abilities, just as his Allied counterparts were.
The chapters which demonstrate Odette and Peter’s work for the SOE are filled with dramatic tension but those after they are captured are also horrifying and humbling in equal measure. The atrocities and torture that Odette witnessed and endured make for difficult reading but I am hugely grateful to the author for so vividly ensuring that both her individual story and the wicked barbarities perpetuated by Nazi Germany continue to be remembered.
Code Name: Lise is a superbly researched book which presents an exciting, captivating and harrowing portrait of this immensely courageous woman whilst still recognising that there were many others like her who didn’t make it home. Very highly recommended.

Code Name: Lise is published in the UK by Mirror Books and can be purchased from Amazon, Waterstones, Hive or from your local independent bookstore.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Larry Loftis is the international bestselling author of the non- fiction spy thrillers CODE NAME: LISE – The True Story of the Woman Who Became WWII’s Most Highly Decorated Spy and Into the Lion’s Mouth: The True Story of Dusko Popov – World War II Spy, Patriot, and the Real- Life Inspiration for James Bond.