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A Life In Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE

Sarah Helm

4 Reviews

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Biography: general, Prose: non-fiction

The definitive account of an absorbing double mystery: the fates of the missing female SOE agents and the truth about the woman who searched for them

During World War Two the Special Operation Executive's French Section sent more than 400 agents into Occupied France -- at least 100 never returned and were reported 'Missing Believed Dead' after the war. Twelve of these were women who died in German concentration camps -- some were tortured, some were shot, and some died in the gas chambers. Vera Atkins had helped prepare these women for their missions, and when the war was over she went out to Germany to find out what happened to them and the other agents lost behind enemy lines.

But while the woman who carried out this extraordinary mission appeared quintessentially English, she was nothing of the sort. Vera Atkins, who never married, covered her life in mystery so that even her closest family knew almost nothing of her past. In A LIFE IN SECRETS Sarah Helm has stripped away Vera's many veils and -- with unprecedented access to official and private papers, and the cooperation of Vera's relatives -- vividly reconstructed an extraordinary life.

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Praise for A Life In Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE

  • It is a testament to Helm's detective skills that she has marshalled evidence to refute the various suppositions about Atkins, presenting a truth more surprising and more compelling than the numerous fictions constructed about this dedicated, if flawed, intelligence officer - WATERSTONE'S BOOKS QUARTERLY

  • What makes the book as fascinating as the best of thrillers is that at every stage we know as much as she does, tracking Vera down clue by clue, contact by contact . . . It makes compulsive reading - Peter Lewis, DAILY MAIL

  • She has now written a truly stunning book - quite the best by a non-veteran of secret warfare . . . If any young reader wonders 'why the bunting and the occasional tear - this VE Day, I recommend this book'

  • John Crossland, SUNDAY TIMES - 'Carefully researched and engaging biography'

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Sarah Helm

Sarah Helm was a reporter on the SUNDAY TIMES and Diplomatic Editor for the INDEPENDENT before becoming Jerusalem and then Brussels correspondent for the same paper. Now a freelance writer, Sarah was invited to undertake this project by the family of Vera Atkins.

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