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A Life In Secrets


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* Review coverage in the national press * Ongoing author activity to include appearances at literary festivals

About the Author

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.


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' Paul Laity, NEW STATESMAN 'Fascinating account of the life of Vera Atkins' SUNDAY EXPRESS 'Sarah Helm reveals a woman whose aloofness obscured an exotic hidden past' MAIL ON SUNDAY 'Helm discovers Atkins' own dark secrets. The strength of Helm's biography is her refusal to portray Atkins as hero or victim. She emerges as a woman of contradictions, shaped by the vagaries of history. Many former colleagues describe her as cold and distant, while others see her as a great unsung heroine' INDEPENDENT 'Original and intriguing . . . The core of this compelling book is Vera Atkins' quest to unravel the fates of the missing agents. The interweaving of Sarah helm's own search for her subject alongside that of Vera's quest for the agents turns this into a brilliantly conceived and skilfully executed detective story. It takes the author from dusty files in English garden sheds, through hair-raising taxi rides at night across the frontier into Ukraine, and over the Atlantic to a lakeside house in Quebec. Vera, who died in 2000, had tried hard to cover her tracks. But Helm, a dogged journalist by profession, has proven too good for her . . . a riveting story that is both serious and moving. If there's one big book you decide to read this summer, let this be it' SCOTTISH HERALD 'This is a gripping concentricity of stories, well told with abundant detail, at a cracking pace' THE TABLET 'A thorough and fascinating reconstruction of a tragedy that encompassed treachery, naivety, inter-service rivalry and, everywhere, bravery' ECONOMIST 'The remarkable work by Sarah Helm on the female agents betrayed to the Gestapo tells of the courage of women who served their country and the cause of freedom, and the blunder after blunder of the men safe in London who sent them to a foul death. Sebastian Faulks, Piers Paul Read and Laurent Joffrin have written novels about women spies in wartime France but the facts are stronger than the fiction. Yet the cleverness of Helm's book, which reads as a thriller - so eager is the reader to know what happened next, is that she shows how little we really know despite all the books and films about SOE . . . the story of Atkins' life remains extraordinary' FINANCIAL TIMES MAGAZINE 'The story [Helm] unfolds here - with talent and lucidity - is genuinely thrilling' OBSERVER 'Outstanding and meticulously researched' SUNDAY TIMES 'Helm searches for Atkins as Atkins searched for her agents. The result is absorbing, remarkable for Helm's perseverance and for her dispassionate prose. She proves as obsessive about uncovering the truth as Atkins was about hiding it' THE TIMES 'A superb book... Helm gets as close to this secretive and cold woman as we are likely to get. Along the way, she sheds a harsh and revealing light on the still murky untold story of Britain's secret war.' LITERARY REVIEW 'In Sarah Helm's book Vera Atkins has received the biography she deserved.' CONTEMPORARY REVIEW 'A formidably able book . . . lucidly written, and a solid contribution to twentieth-century history' M R D Foot, THE SPECTATOR

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