Publisher: Michael Joseph (Trade Paperback – 2 November 2021)
Length: 420 pages
My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
Australia’s leading author of the historical drama, Fiona McIntosh, returns with another compelling and intriguing novel, The Spy’s Wife, which takes the reader on an intense and powerful dive into pre-World War II Nazi Germany.
McIntosh is a great author whose work has spanned several genres of fantastic fiction. McIntosh debuted back in 2001 with the fantasy novel Betrayal, the first book in her Trinity trilogy. From there she wrote several fascinating fantasy trilogies, including The Quickening, Percheron and Valisar series, before moving on to other genres. This includes her Jack Hawksworth crime series (initially written under the pen name Lauren Crow) and the Shapeshifter children’s fantasy series. However, in recent years, McIntosh has been best known for her impressive collection of historical drama novels that take the reader on some deep journeys to compelling bygone periods with complex characters and intriguing historical elements. These include The Pearl Thief, The Diamond Hunter and The Champagne War, each of which were excellent reads with some compelling historical hooks to them. Her latest book, The Spy’s Wife, was another amazing read that contained a thrilling plot.
Evie, a widow and stationmaster’s daughter, helplessly looks out for the weekly visit of the handsome man she and her sister call The Southerner on their train platform in the wilds of northern England. When polite salutations shift to friendly conversations, they become captivated by each other’s reticent manner. After so much sorrow, the childless Evie can’t believe love and the chance for her own family has come into her life again.
With rumours coming out of Germany that Hitler may be stirring up war again, local English authorities have warned against spies. Even Evie becomes suspicious of her new suitor, Roger. But all is not what it seems.
When Roger is arrested, Evie comes up with an audacious plan to prove his innocence that means moving to Germany and working as a British counter-spy. Wearing the disguise of dutiful, naïve wife, Evie must charm the Nazi Party’s dangerous officials to bring home hard evidence of war mongering on the Führer’s part.
But in this game of cat and mouse, it seems everyone has an ulterior motive, and Evie finds it impossible to know who to trust. With lives on the line, ultimate sacrifices will be made as she wrestles between her patriotism and saving the man she loves.
From the windswept moors of the Yorkshire dales to the noisy beer halls of Munich and grand country estates in the picture-book Bavarian mountains, this is a lively and high-stakes thriller that will keep you second-guessing until the very end.
This was a really good novel from McIntosh, containing a brilliant and dramatic historical storyline loaded with a ton of intriguing pre-war espionage elements. The Spy’s Wife has a bit of a little slow start while McIntosh sets out the scenario and introduces the main characters and their romantic relationship. While I admit that this initial quarter of the novel did not grab me completely, it did serve as an excellent introduction to the plot, and the rest of the book flowed on extremely well from there. Once the male lead is arrested as a spy the story really starts to pick off, with Evie following her heart and volunteering to head to Germany as a spy. What follows is an intense and captivating read, as Evie gets further and further down the espionage rabbit hole, forced to play the role of a dutiful housewife while threats and dangers lurk around every corner. The story goes in some fantastic directions, and the excellent blend of drama, intrigue and thrilling sequences really helped to produce an impressive and addictive read. I loved seeing the main character’s odyssey in Germany, especially as the unrelenting high-pressure situation leads to some very powerful scenes, and the reader really has no idea if or when tragedy will occur. The story eventually leads to an extremely moving conclusion, which perfectly wraps up some character arcs and ensures that the reader is left reeling and surprised. An overall amazing story, guaranteed to keep you hooked.
McIntosh also features a great range of characters throughout this book who add a lot to the impressive end exciting narrative. The main character is Evie, the titular spy’s wife, a widow whose new love turns out to be a German spy. Evie is a brilliant and charismatic woman who has some amazing reserves of strength and compassion flowing through her. McIntosh does a great job setting her up and there is a real believable transition within her from stationmaster’s daughter to international spy. It was extremely fascinating to see this mostly untrained operative attempt to infiltrate the highest levels of Nazi society and the character puts on a fantastic “brainless woman” act which works extremely well, even if it is extremely counter to her actual character. Evie is matched by her new lover/potential betrayer in Roger/Max, the German spy who is captured by the British before returning to Germany to assist Evie’s mission. Max is an interesting character: a highly regarded German from an old family, who finds himself out of favour due to his first marriage to a Jewish woman. Max was coerced into spying for the Nazis through threats to his half-Jewish son that forced him to help a government he despises. Despite his outward dislike for the Nazis, the reader is never totally certain where his loyalties truly lie, and whether he may betray Evie. This really helps amp up the drama in the novel, especially as these two protagonists have some major confrontations about their roles and their histories. I really appreciated the deep and complex character arc surrounding Max and McIntosh took it to some amazing and compelling places.
I also must really highlight the book’s main antagonist, Giselle, a fanatical Nazi who has been obsessed with Max for years. A dangerous and malicious being, Giselle is immediately shown to be a cruel person by her constant harassment of the protagonists, as well as her kidnapping of Max’s son. McIntosh did an outstanding job with Giselle, turning her into an intense and crazed figure, constantly trying to drive a wedge between Evie and Max while also attempting to prove that Evie is up to something. You really hate Giselle as the book continues, especially as she gets some major victories, and she ended up being an amazing villain who all readers will love to hate. Other characters of note with The Spy’s Wife include a range of fictional and historical figures, including some leading members of the Porsche family, each of whom add a lot to the narrative. All these great characters added a great deal to the plot of the novel, and I really appreciated getting to know them and seeing where their interesting arcs went.
The final thing I wanted to highlight about this book was the impressive and detailed settings. The Spy’s Wife takes the reader to some amazing and beautiful locations, and McIntosh’s amazing and descriptive writing, which was loaded with substantial historical and visual detail, really helped to bring all of them to life. I really enjoyed seeing some of the locations in this book from the picturesque train station in Yorkshire where the story begins, all the way through to Munich and other parts of Germany. Each of these locations was fascinating and compelling in their own right, and I loved how McIntosh tried to infuse them with the pre-war sentiments and worries. I was particularly impressed with the detailed portrayal of the city of Munich, and the reader really gets a sense of its beauty and culture, as well as the impact the Nazis and the upcoming war is having on it. I deeply enjoyed this excellent settings, and McIntosh really used them to full effect to enhance her story, and ensure that the protagonists could observe many intriguing cultural and historical elements.
The Spy’s Wife was another awesome and moving historical drama from Fiona McIntosh, who once again takes the reader on a compelling and powerful journey back in time. Set around several impressive character and containing a deeply captivating historical plot about espionage, love and betrayal, The Spy’s Wife is a fantastic must-read for all historical drama fans.