“Louise’s War,” by Sarah Shaber, introduces us to widowed Louise Pearlie, a file clerk in World War II Washington, DC. Louise is not just any file clerk. She has college training, is smart and resourceful, and is a bit of a risk taker. She works in the Office of Strategic Services (aka spy agency) where all the work is classified and government regulations dictate that she can’t even reveal where she works. Louise’s job is to look for information that will help the Allies win the war, perfect for this woman who has escaped her dead-end life on the Carolina coast.
France is increasingly coming under German control at this stage of the war and it’s been a while since Louise has heard from a close college friend who lives there. Her husband is important to the war effort, and Louise searches for a way to get this Jewish family out of France before they are taken to internment camps.
When papers that would save her friend go missing and a murder is committed, Louise realizes that she can’t trust anyone. She must make alliances she would not have made in less desperate circumstances, and time is not her friend. Shaber creates a tension filled atmosphere of subterfuge and betrayal that keeps us guessing and swept up in the story.
In “Louise’s War,” Shaber demonstrates the gravity of the events of the war through her well-researched picture of life in WWII America, with its details of domestic sacrifices, and the effects of gas and food rationing. Louise’s time at a D.C. boarding house shows the reality of the jammed housing situation in wartime Washington. Massive amounts of food were needed by the troops, so the backyard gardens and chicken coops that Louise tended at the boarding house were true to the period, necessary supplements to rationed civilian food supplies.
In “Louise’s Dilemma,” Louise’s job focus has shifted to acquiring and cataloguing intelligence about Nazi U-boats in the North Atlantic. Louise and an FBI agent travel to nearby Maryland after a suspicious postcard is forwarded to the OSS. Their investigation takes alarming twists and turns and puts Louise in danger from a surprising villain. Her clever mind and dogged determination uncover something incredible, yet completely believable, given the real-world terrain in that area. “Louise’s Dilemma,” the third book in the series, delivers an engaging historical mystery and a compelling read. I had read it first, then picked up “Louise’s War,” to see how Louise Pearlie’s journey began. I’m glad I did.
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