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The Scent of Secrets    by Jane Thynne order for
Scent of Secrets
by Jane Thynne
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2015 (2015)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's a rather different spy story, written in lyrical prose. Jane Thynne's A Scent of Secrets stars Clara Vine, a young half-German half-English actress, who spies for the British in Paris and Berlin in 1938, just before the second World War begins. What makes it more interesting than the usual period piece is that she has access to the senior Nazi wives and even gets close to Hitler's mistress, Eva Braun.

The novel opens in 1938 Paris where 'Rumours swarmed around the streets like rats, refugees from every corner of Europe brushed shoulders on the boulevards, and the cafés were a babel of foreign languages'. Clara is there for a film. She is growing increasingly nervous in Germany where Goebbels suspects her motives. She keeps secret the fact that her grandmother was a Jew and wonders why she stays on in Berlin, where her only tie is her godson Erich.

In Paris, Clara is contacted by British Intelligence, who want her to get close to Eva Braun, who is a fan of her work, and get a look at her diary. Clara agrees reluctantly. And she dances with handsome Nazi Max Brandt, who seems very interested in her. Back in Berlin, Clara has tea with Erich, who tells her about the German Reich cruise he had just been on, of the young woman he befriended, and her abrupt disappearance. Erich asks Clara to use her connections with journalists to find out what happened to Ada Freitag. The plot thickens.

Clara does befriend the fragile Eva, one of many Nazi leaders' women who 'lived closeted existences, imprisoned by the dictates of their men and the suspicions of an increasingly paranoid regime.' She meets Brandt again, now in SS uniform. She convinces a journalist friend to look into Ada Freitag's situation. She feels a net closing in on her and learns of an imminent coup against Hitler. Jane Thynne weaves all these plot strands together into a satisfactory conclusion. The Scent of Secrets is a very good read.

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