Twenty-five years after the end of the war, ageing British SOE operative Noah Ainsworth is reflecting on the secret agent who saved his life when a mission went wrong during his perilous, exhilarating years in occupied France. He never knew her real name, nor whether she survived the war.
His daughter Charlotte begins a search for answers. What follows is the story of Fleur and Chloe, two otherwise ordinary women who in 1943 are called up by the SOE for deployment in France. Taking enormous risks with very little information or resources, the women have no idea they’re at the mercy of a double agent within their ranks who’s causing chaos.
As Charlotte’s search for answers continues, new suspicions are raised about the identity of the double agent, with unsettling clues pointing to her father.
Exploring grief, loss, espionage and heartbreak, Kelly Rimmer’s The Paris Agent is an emotionally compelling tale inspired by real-life female WWII agents. For the first time, Kelly brings their stories to life with a tale of two ordinary women in WWII France who enlist as spies, tearing them apart from their family and loved ones.
Told in dual timelines, the story alternates between 1940s World War II and 1970s England. In the present storyline, we meet Noah Ainsworth, who lost his wife a year earlier and confesses to his daughter about his past as a secret agent during the War. After a bad accident at the tail end of his service, his memory was affected and he’s been unable to piece together what happened in his final moments. In particular, he is eager to track down the man who saved his life. His daughter Charlotte takes it upon herself to help him investigate.
“As we travelled into the town, I felt a pang of grief at the endless rubble. It was clear that the Allies targeted the blocks around the Seine again and again, destroying historical bridges, then the temporary pontoons the Germans constructed in their place, and so on.”
Once again, Kelly pivots her story around defiant, brave women who maintain their cause and determination in the midst of adversity and danger. A significant amount of research has clearly gone into this book, which has been influenced by real-life women who were spies during the second World War.
Kelly Rimmer brings another emotional story to her repertoire, and crafts a tumultuous setting but with well-rounded, three-dimensional characters who you fall in love with across the course of the novel. The ending, in particular, is quite difficult to swallow. I found it heartbreaking, and the story has stayed with me since I’ve put it down.
“Most likely, the Gestapo had beaten and tortured Jeremie until he broke and told them everything – probably the location of his set and crystals, details of his security procedure and encryption key, his transmission windows.”
Admittedly, I did find it a bit confusing keeping track of all the characters. In the 1940s storyline we move between two perspectives – Eloise and Josie – and that, combined with the present-day storyline, did start to become a little convoluted at times. I kept mistaking the women for each other and having to flick back to check which POV we were in.
The only other element of the book that I found a little jarring was some of the stilted dialogue. Particularly in the beginning there was a fair amount of info-dumping, mainly from Noah, and it didn’t read overly natural. But other than that, The Paris Agent is another really solid story from Kelly Rimmer.
“I’d been stewing on an idea all week, trying to find the courage to suggest it. I still felt anxious to speak aloud something so outlandish – but it was clear we were out of time. I tugged Noah’s arm, and he sank onto the bed.”
Recommended for fans of historical fiction and WWII saga, readership for The Paris Agent skews female, 30+
Thank you to the publishing company for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Paris Agent
Hachette Book Publishers