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July 31, 2022

The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

Who can resist a librarian who is also a spy? As The Librarian Spy is published by a Harlequin imprint I was slightly worried that this would be more of a romantic WWII story rather than the more historically accurate stories that I prefer. Yet, I just couldn't pass up reading about a librarian spy during WWII.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of WWII historical novel The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin
July 2022; Hanover Square Press; 978-1335427489
audio, ebook, print (368 pages): WWII historical fiction

The Librarian Spy
 by Madeline Martin is a dual-point-of-view story. Ava is a librarian in the rare book section at the Library of Congress. As she has experience in research and producing microfilm, she is tapped to work for the war department to work at the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal where people are tasked with collecting newspapers and other international texts of interest, photographing them for microfilm, and then shipping them back to the U.S. for analyses. Helene aka Elaine is a French housewife living in German-occupied Lyons. Her husband forbids her from participating in the Resistance, which leads to a big fight and Joseph storms out. Later he is arrested and Helene discovers his own Resistance work - providing forged documents to Jews - when a woman who looks similar to Helene comes to her home looking for papers. Wanting to help the desperate woman, she gives her her own identity papers and rations card. Now Helene has to turn to the Resistance and she becomes Elaine.

I didn't realize that Portugal was neutral during WWII. It became an international hub for European refugees, diplomats, and spies. It was a decadent oasis in war-ravaged Europe - food was plentiful and it was relatively safe. Germans, Americans, and the British mingled in an often elaborate web of espionage. With all the refugees, newspapers from around the world could be obtained, even some from the underground presses that printed the truth, exposing German propaganda lies. That there was a department tasked with collecting this information and analyzing it for its potential to aid the Allies was new to me too. I read a lot of WWII fiction and this was the first time I have run across such an organization.

Through Elaine in France, we get to see the horrors of war and the German occupation. Her work with the Resistance is to print the underground newspaper Combat. It is relatively safe work - as long as no one gives up the location of the printing press. But in an area where a person can be plucked from the streets, never to be seen again for the smallest infraction or perceived slight to the Germans, no one is truly safe.

While I was more familiar with Elaine's story based on other books I've read I still found her chapters interesting as the characters are wonderful and you want to make sure they are okay.

I did love Ava's chapters a little more just because the story was different than what I've read before. I really liked the chemistry between Ava and James. When Ava meets James on her first day in Lisbon, I worried that it was the start of a romantic WWII story. While there is some romantic tension between the characters, there isn't anything more than a stolen kiss while trying to avoid detection by the Portugal Secret Police.

I loved how the stories of the two women wove together and overlapped. While some of it was predictable because I read so much WWII historical fiction, it was still well-written. The details really made you feel like you were there with the characters.

I loved The Librarian Spy. I didn't want to put it down and read it in a matter of days. Martin has created superb characters - ones who you want to be friends with. I don't want to say goodbye to these characters. While I'm pretty sure this is a stand-alone novel there is a little leeway in the ending that so could be a jumping-off point for a sequel. If a sequel is published I wouldn't hesitate to pick it up.

If you love WWII stories and want to read about a different aspect of the war effort, then this is the book for you.

Buy The Librarian Spy at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour

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