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Once rumored to have been the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s Miss Moneypenny, Vera Atkins climbed her way to the top in the Special Operations Executive, or SOE, Britain’s secret service created to help the resistance efforts in the Nazi-occupied countries. Throughout the war, Atkins recruited and trained the agents for the SOE’s French Section. By war’s end, however, twelve of Atkins’s most cherished female spies had not returned. Making it her personal mission to find out what happened to them and the other agents lost behind enemy lines, she rigorously traced their horrific final journeys. But while the woman who carried out this astonishing search appeared quintessentially English, she was nothing of the sort. As we follow Vera Atkins through the devastation of post-war Germany, we learn Atkins herself 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 Atkins’s many veils. Drawing on recently released government files and unprecedented access to family papers, Helm vividly reconstructs a complex and extraordinary life.