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Code Name: Lise
The True Story of the Woman Who Became WWII's Most Highly Decorated Spy
Larry Loftis

Gallery Books
Jan 15, 2019/ ISBN 9781501198656
Nonfiction / Biography / Spies / WWII: France/Germany

Reviewed by Elise Cooper

Code Name: Lise by Larry Loftis brings to life the most highly decorated woman spy. The story delves into how Odette Sansom displayed courage and patriotism while having to endure endless torture by the Nazis.

"After I read the SOE training evaluation of her I knew she was a force to be reckoned with. She was described as temperamental, a loose cannon, arrogant, relentless, fearless, and extremely patriotic. I think she was chosen because women carriers were needed since men were picked up by the Germans to be drafted or put in forced labor. There was also the need for people who spoke French without an English accent, which she did. She was captured because she was stubborn and did not follow directions. But she more than made up for that mistake by showing her bravery. She did not talk or give out any information even after being tortured that included pulling off all her toenails."

Born in France and living in England Odette decides she wants to help with the war cause. Because of her knowledge of the French language and customs, she was recruited into Britain's Special Operations Executive Program to conduct espionage on the Germans during WWII. Working closely with her commanding officer, Peter Churchill, they are able to complete dangerous missions. Peter became smitten with her and eventually they fell in love while playing a cat and mouse game with German secret police sergeant, Hugo Belicher. He takes advantage of a mistake Odette makes and captures them, sending them to Paris's Fresnes prison, and from there to concentration camps in Germany where they're starved, beaten, and tortured. Put on a list to be executed she and Peter are kept alive by the Germans because of two lies she concocted. She pretended that she and Peter were married (they would be after the war) and that Peter was related to Winston Churchill, realizing the Gestapo hoped to use her and Peter as a bargaining chip.

Loftis describes a scene in the book. "She is standing up to a German general while she was still a spy. Instead of being incognito and blending in she was visible, which showed her fearlessness, but also her recklessness. In another case, she slipped handcuffs off, while confronting a German guard, which also showed her fearfulness and recklessness. I have a book quote where she tells the concentration commandant at the end of the war, ‘I want to know why you don't open the gates of the camp. The war is over. It is useless murder to keep people here.'"

This story delves into the details of what Odette had to endure. In the face of grave danger, she shows her courageousness and willingness to stand up to the Germans. Readers will not want to put this book down. Loftis has the ability to write it as a spy thriller instead of a dry biography.

Reviewed 2019