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When Ruth Gilmartin learns the true identity—and the WWII profession—of her aging mother, Sally Gilmartin, at the start of Boyd's elegant ninth novel (after Any Human Heart), Ruth is understandably surprised. Sally, née Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian émigré living in Paris in 1939, was recruited as a spy by Lucas Romer, the head of a secretive propaganda group called British Security Coordination, to help get America into the war. This fascinating story is well told, but slightly undercut by Ruth's less-than-dramatic life as a single mother teaching English at Oxford while pursuing a graduate degree in history. Ruth's more pedestrian existence can't really compete with her mother's dramatic revelations. The contemporary narrative achieves a good deal more urgency when Ruth's mother recruits her to hunt down the reclusive, elusive Romer. But the real story is Eva/Sally's, a vividly drawn portrait of a minor figure in spydom caught up in the epic events leading up to WWII. (Oct.)
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If an espionage thriller with terror tentacles reaching from pre-World War II to the present can be called a cozy, this is it. Boyd's latest novel moves back and forth from the heart of the British countryside and misty, romantic Edinburgh to prewar Paris and into various capitals during the conflict itself--all with a satisfying, Agatha Christie atmosphere. This is also a mother-daughter story set in 1976, with the daughter of an eccentric mother trying to figure out who wants to kill her mother, Sally Gilmartin. Boyd introduces a rather clunky literary device of having the mother give her daughter a manuscript that details her life as a WWII spy for the British Secret Service. Boyd's focus on Gilmartin's spy training and her behind-the-scenes propaganda work in New York to steer public opinion toward U.S. involvement in the war is fascinating. A somewhat clumsy narrative enlivened by some expertly generated suspense. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Paperback edition.