The Wolves at the Door: The True Story of America's Greatest Female Spy

Judith L. Pearson, Author Lyons Press $22.95 (260p) ISBN 978-1-59228-762-8
Although Pearson's chronology wobbles early on and her prose is less than elegant, her account of Virginia Hall's work as a secret agent in German-occupied France is nevertheless riveting, thanks to the inherent drama of the time. Gifted with languages, Hall sought a career in Foreign Service in 1930s Europe, but a physical handicap (she had one wooden leg), her gender and her outspoken political views stymied her diplomatic ambitions. She escaped to London shortly after Germany's 1940 invasion of France and came to the attention of a secret British intelligence group that trained her in non-traditional sabotage techniques, cryptology and radio communication. As a newly minted secret agent, she returned to France, where she passed on information about German positions, transported downed Allied pilots and escaped prisoners to safety, oversaw the retrieval of supply drops and organized resistance fighters. Hall's espionage career ended with the allied victory and the dawn of the cold war, for which the CIA wanted a different breed of agent. Though commendable for its portrayal of Hall's unflagging courage and energy in dangerous and desperate conditions, the story is told in bland prose that fails to live up to the exceptional times it chronicles.
Reviewed on: 10/03/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-59921-072-8
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