THE ALICE NETWORK – Kate Quinn
The Alice Network, was recently the Reese Witherspoon Book Club book-of-the-month. I was immediately intrigued by this book about the little-known female spies of World War I. I often feel that a lot of the events of the First World War are overshadowed by the second, particularly the German occupation of France and the French Resistance, which actually occurred during both wars. Although the story and two main characters are fictional, much of what the author describes, as well as the supporting cast are historically accurate. The book is set over two time-periods, the earlier being during World War I, with unlikely new spy recruit, Evelyn Gardiner, that infiltrates collaborator Rene’s restaurant, spying on the German patrons. The second period is set a few years after World War II, where a young, unmarried and pregnant Charlie St Clair enlists Evelyn’s help in finding her cousin who went missing.
I am a big fan of war novels, but have not read much about World War I. This book is a departure from the norm with the incorporation of two storylines. The characters are well written, from the cruel and odious Rene, to the brave Lilli (aka Alice of the Alice Network). Lilli is one of the characters who really did exist as a spy during World War I and her story as told is largely accurate including, tragically, the British army not believing one of her final reports that the Germans were making a big push at Verdun.
Interestingly, in those times, spying was not considered the glamourous occupation like it is today, thanks largely to James Bond, particularly for a woman. They faced a lot of criticism and judgement for performing their essential tasks.
I really enjoyed The Alice Network, and love that Kate Quinn is shining a light on the extraordinarily brave, and largely forgotten heroines of World War I. Be sure to read the author’s note at the end where she gives a lot of detail around what is fictional and what is based on true events.
THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR – Shari Lapena
This is the first book by new author, Shari Lapena. I am always up for a thriller, so I was keen to read this book when a friend recommended it to me.
New parents, Marco and Anne, are invited to their neighbours’ home for supper, but the babysitter cancels. The hosts are childless and don’t want them to bring the baby along. So, they leave their daughter at home, checking in on her every half hour. Surely it will be fine?
Soon after midnight, they come home and find that the baby has disappeared. Chaos ensues when the police are called and are suspicious of Marco and Anne. As the investigation progresses, we learn more about Marco and Anne. Anne’s wealthy and overbearing parents and of course, the couple next door who aren’t what they seem. The author writes from various viewpoints over the course of the novel. She smartly sets it up so that one is eventually suspicious of every character as you learn more about their possible motives for kidnapping the baby.
The Couple Next Door is fast paced with many twists and turns. 3,5 stars for a gripping read, the only fault I found was the ending, which got slightly out of hand – bordering on ridiculous.
Overall, an exciting book that does keep you guessing. Not recommended for new Mums unless you are sitting right next to your baby!