The Darkest Hour
Caroline Tung Richmond
Scholastic Press, August 2016
Lucie Blaise becomes a female Indiana Jones or Dirk Pitt as she battles the Nazis in France during World War II. The sixteen-year-old lies about her age and becomes a special agent trainee for the Covert Ops section of the OSS in Paris. She’s unsuccessful at first, despite the intensive training she’s received, but because she’s perfect for the job—a strong, young, French-speaking U.S. citizen—her handler gives her a second chance.
Motivated by the memory of her soldier brother, killed by the German Army, Lucie’s incentive to become a top-notch secret agent and kill German collaborators is strong. Much to her frustration, she is unable to kill without shaking, and that causes her to botch another assignment. She’s put on desk duty.
That boring duty doesn’t last long, though, when an important and urgent situation develops and requires all of the agents to go into the field. Dressed in one of her disguises, Lucie travels to Cherbourg with another young female agent, a person with whom she’s had multiple conflicts. Nothing goes as planned, Nazis are everywhere, and the two young, female super-agents fight and flee from one death-defying situation to another.
The characters are intriguing, the compelling action is non-stop, and the history appears realistic. The author made up the despicable plot described in the story, and the agents and their covert operations facility are fictional. But the characters are based upon the lives of actual women spies who worked for the Allies during World War II and a couple of actual situations.
I didn’t want to stop reading at chapter endings, because I wanted to find out how Lucie and her fellows agents would fare and how they would stop the reprehensible Nazi plot they had discovered. I recommend the thriller. Of course, for young people who read this historical fiction, several questions bear discussion: is killing considered “murder” when it’s done during wartime, is being a double agent for pay worse or the same as being a double agent for patriotic reasons or to save family members, and is it reasonable that a teenager would be strong enough or have the mental resolve to survive all of Lucie’s adventures?
Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, August 2016.
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections, Furtive Investigation and Nine LiFelines, the first three Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.