February 29, 1944: I am about to jump out of an aeroplane for the first time … I don’t care that every man is looking at me as though I don’t belong. Besides, I’m hungover. And I think I might throw up …
In 1936 intrepid young Australian journalist Nancy Wake is living in Paris after witnessing firsthand the terror of Hitler’s rise in Europe, firing her resolve to fight against the Nazis. When Nancy falls in love with handsome French industrialist Henri Fiocca, no sooner has she become Mrs Fiocca than the Germans invade France and Nancy takes yet another name, a codename – the first of many.
As the elusive Lucienne Carlier she smuggles people across borders and earns a new name ‘The White Mouse’ along with a five million franc bounty on her head, courtesy of the Gestapo. Forced to flee France, Nancy is trained by an elite espionage group under the codename Hélène. Finally, with mission in hand, she is airdropped back into France as the deadly Madame Andrée. But the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed Nancy – and the people she loves – will become.
Based on the true story of an extraordinary woman who saved countless lives, Code Name Hélène is a thrilling tale of danger, intrigue, unfaltering courage, remarkable sacrifice – and love.
‘Magnificent ... Lawhon carries us into the heart of the French resistance [and] into the mind of a badass heroine with uncanny instincts who takes on the Nazis and men’s arrogant sexism with uncommon bravado ... Propulsive ... Emotionally stirring... Even long after the last page is turned, this astonishing story of Wake’s accomplishments will hold readers in its grip.’ Booklist, starred review
‘Underground operative, charmer in red lipstick, loving wife and hard-hitting woman of her times, Nancy Wake will fascinate and thrill fans of fierce, brash, independent women, alike.’
Lisa Wingate, author of Before We Were Yours
Lawhon, who masterfully combined fact and fiction in I Was Anastasia, does so again with this gripping thriller based on the life of Nancy Wake, an Australian expat who worked as a reporter for Hearst in Paris just before WWII and later as a spy for the British. Lawhon throws readers into the middle of the action, as Nancy, under the alias H l ne, prepares to parachute from an RAF plane into France to help the Resistance in 1944, carrying in her head memorized lists of vital data, including bridges targeted for destruction and safe house addresses. After she lands, the story flashes back eight years, as Nancy struggles for respect and recognition as a journalist; despite her firsthand observations of Nazi brutality in 1930s Vienna, her editor is reluctant to publish a story about what she's seen. Frequent jumps in time draw out the arc of Wake's remarkable life; despite her statement early on that women's weapons of warfare were limited to "silk stockings and red lipstick," by the end she's proven herself skillful at physical combat as well. Lawhon's vivid, fast-paced narrative will keep readers turning the pages, and a detailed afterword makes plain how much of the account is factual. This entertaining tale does justice to Lawhon's larger-than-life subject.