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Spymistress
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For most of her life, hardly anyone knew that Vera Atkins (1908-2000) had been the able assistant of Col. Maurice Buckmaster, who headed the F-Section (France) of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), which promoted Nazi resistance in occupied Europe during World War II. Atkins's main task was to train the 400-plus secret agents sent to France to oppose the Germans. Her undercover career first came to light in Sarah Helm's A Life in Secrets (an LJ Best Book of 2006), and now Stevenson, who is famous for his classic A Man Called Intrepid, has produced a second major biography of Atkins drawing on sources not consulted by Helm. For example, he takes advantage of his connections with spymaster William Stephenson ("Intrepid") and his wife, Mary, whose relationship with Atkins went back to the 1930s, to fill in many details not emphasized by Helm (her book has no entry for Stephenson in its index or bibliography). This book thus provides additional insights into the day-to-day work of Atkins as she recruited and trained agents. However, it barely covers the remarkable story of Atkins's seeking to learn the fates of her lost agents after the war, the angle taken by Helm's book. Therefore, both biographies form a fine duo. If libraries can acquire only one, they should opt for Helm.-Edward Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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