Following his hit nonfiction book Into the Lion’s Mouth (2017), Larry Loftis returns with another true story about the most highly decorated spy in World War II.
This time around, Loftis chronicles the story of Frenchwoman Odette Samson, who was recruited for Britain’s Special Operations Executive program to spy in France during WWII.
Joining the SOE was no cakewalk. The first decision in Samson’s courageous journey to help the war efforts involved leaving behind her three daughters in order to undergo the necessary training–which Loftis covers, offering scenes reminiscent of Jason Matthews’ Red Sparrow–to thrive undercover. From weapons to tradecraft, Samson has the finer points of espionage and self-defense drilled into her, though her final form of protection comes in the form of a code name to protect her real identity.
Thus, Odette becomes known as “Lise” and heads to occupied France under the command of Peter Churchill.
Using memoirs, old interviews, and past historical record, Loftis recants Samson’s story of fighting the Nazis in riveting fashion, all told with the breakneck speeds typically found in spy thrillers. From one dangerous mission after another, Loftis takes readers alongside Odette as she continuously risks her life, somehow always persevering under the grimmest of circumstances, including a time she was captured by Germans and savagely tortured. Her harrowing journey is intertwined with a love story, as Loftis also tells of the romance between Odette and Churchill, who eventually wed, providing a deep dive into her life that not only makes her relatable but also ups the ante for readers as they plow through the pages to see how her story ends.
It’s rare for writers to pen nonfiction and still deliver a reading experience that’s truly comparable to the pacing and structure of a novel. Loftis, though, has mastered that ability, having now served up back-to-back stories of heroism, courage, and patriotism in a way that only he can.
Nothing about this book reads like a biography, and yet the fact that it is nonfiction should make it appealing to a wide range of readers. On top of that, Code Name: Lise begs to be adapted for the big screen, and with his quick pace and constant cliffhangers effortlessly pulling readers from one chapter to the next, Loftis’ latest reads like a movie playing in your mind. Readers won’t just see Odette, they’ll feel her pain and anguish, triumph and bravery, and everything in between right along with her.
Code Name: Lise is another masterpiece from Larry Loftis, the king of nonfiction thrillers. If you try just one nonfiction book this year, there’s no question . . . it should be this one.
Author: Larry Loftis
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: January 15, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 9.0/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.