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A TRAITOR IN WHITEHALL by Julia Kelly: Book Review

Evelyne Redfern, through no fault of her own, is known in both France and England as “The Parisian Orphan.”  The only child of an ill-fated marriage between a French woman and an English man, she is sent to boarding school in England at the insistence of her father after the death of her beloved mother.

Now she is in London, just as the blitz is beginning.  She is working at an ordnance factory and living in a boardinghouse with her best friend Moira when she’s approached by an old friend of her parents who invites her to a job interview the following morning.

Mr. Fletcher obviously is working for some type of secret government agency, but exactly what its nature is, is never told to Evelyne.  He tells her that he is looking for someone to work in the typing pool at what will become the War Offices, a 1,100 room building that houses Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his extended staff.  But it is not a typing or secretarial job that Fletcher is hiring her for.

Everything she learns and does there is top secret, which is why he has her sign the Official Secrets Act.  He wants her to “monitor” what is going on in the building, and again Fletcher stresses that she must tell no one about her new position or what is expected of her.

Right from the start, Evelyne realizes there is a problem at the War Offices.  Somehow, in spite of all the precautions that are taken, information, some important and some not, is leaking.  The fear is that it’s just a matter of time before something vital falls into the hands of the Nazis.

There is a fascinating cast of characters at the WO.  The head of the typing pool is Miss Wilkes, who runs the pool with an iron hand.  The secretary/typist who gets most of the interesting assignments is Jean Plinkton, who seems to know more about the other workers than she should.  And then there are the various men who help make the policies–Mr. Faylen, who before the war was a neat and punctual man but who has become fussy and disorganized, blaming others for his problems; Mr. Pearson, who is a bit too friendly with all the typists; and Mr. Poole, a rather handsome man with an unknown background.

On Evelyne’s fourth day on the job, Miss Wilkes sends her for her first sun lamp treatment, a requirement because of the amount of time the typists live and work underground.  As Evelyne enters the room where the lamps have been set up, she sees a woman who appears to be asleep, her head resting on one of her arms.  As Evelyne gets closer, she realizes that what she thought to be a red design on the woman’s white sweater is, in fact, blood.  Then she hears the sound of a metal bolt swiping across the room’s door.  She’s locked in with a corpse.

Julia Kelly has written an absorbing mystery about 1940 London, a time when the blitz is beginning, neighborhoods are being destroyed, and the fear of a Nazi invasion is spreading through the population.  In Evelyne Redfern the author has created an engaging, clever, and fearless heroine, one who is perfect for the time she lives in.

You can read more about Julia Kelly at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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