“Code Name: Lise” by Larry Loftis; Gallery Books (360 pages, $27)
When she was inserted into France during World War II, her code name was Lise. Her real name was Odette Sansom, and she was about as unlikely a prospect for espionage as you could imagine. She was living in England and raising three children while her husband was away at war. But she was born and raised in France, so her command of the language made her an ideal candidate as a courier for British spies and saboteurs operating in occupied France.
Remarkably, she acceded to British recruitment efforts, placed her three girls in a boarding school and joined up with a cell of British agents in the south of France. Eventually, she was captured, tortured with a red hot iron, had all her toenails pulled out and was sent to a German concentration camp. But through it all she never cracked, thereby saving the lives of other British agents. A central element of this story is her love affair with her commanding officer in France named Peter Churchill — no relation to Sir Winston, but Sansom suggested otherwise to her captors, and that ploy helped her and Churchill survive. For her bravery, she was honored by Britain and France, making her the most highly decorated woman and the most decorated spy — man or woman — of World War II.
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