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The Spies of Shilling Lane    by Jennifer Ryan order for
Spies of Shilling Lane
by Jennifer Ryan
Order:  USA  Can
Crown, 2019 (2019)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Jennifer Ryan, author of The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, now brings us another entertaining, over the top, yet thought-provoking read in The Spies of Shilling Lane. It portrays significant shifts in the ways women began to see themselves, and be seen by others, after the war to end all wars.

The lead, Mrs. Braithwaite, proves unlikable at first, but we learn to understand what made her the way she is and to respect her ability to adapt and grow into a better person. Orphaned as a child, she was raised by her spiteful, cold aunt Augusta to guard their position in life. Her husband left her for another woman and divorced her. This led to Mrs. Braithwaite's rejection by the village matrons (whom she previously ruled, not very kindly) and to her oldest friend's threat to reveal her secret to Mrs. Braithwaite's estranged daughter Betty.

She rushes to London, hoping to tell Betty herself first. There she finds that her daughter has disappeared from her lodgings and had lied to her mother about her employment. Mrs. Braithwaite is nothing if not stubborn and sets out to find Betty. Multiple rescues and escapes follow with a series of rather farcical espionage shenanigans, involving Mrs. Braithwaite, Betty and the latter's retiring landlord, Mr. Norris - he also changes significantly by the end of the novel.

There are Nazi sympathizers, black marketeers, a bomb, and constant peril for this unlikely trio of secret agents (one real one and two wannabees), but all's well that ends well - and this novel does end well, at least for the good guys. The Spies of Shilling Lane is a very engaging read!

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