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Lipstick and Lies(novel), Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2007.
Margit Liesche is a California-based writer whose debut World War II mystery novel,Lipstick and Lies, was inspired by her family history and true events. Her parents were Hungarian refugees who came to the United States in 1947 after serving as missionaries in China for eight years. They relayed to her tales of their adventures and their escape on an American military ship.
On her Web site, Liesche notes that because of her parents' experiences, "intrigue is part of [my] DNA … The idea for Lipstick and Lies was born in the National Archives in Washington with my discovery of a Department of Justice letter from the Detroit FBI field office chief to the Director, Washington DC. The letter's contents referred to a thirty-four-year-old self-styled countess, trained as a spy in Berlin, who entered the U.S. in October 1941, posing as a professional lecturer. A line, deep into the text, identifying the countess as ‘a known espionage agent who is also working for us,’ gave me goose bumps. A countess-counteragent. I had found the spine of my plot!"
Women played important roles during World War II. Pucci Lewis, the protagonist in Lipstick and Lies, was inspired by groups of women of the time, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) and the women who worked in intelligence. Liesche chose to honor these women by placing Pucci into a true spy case involving a countess-counteragent, Grace Buchanan-Dineen. The novel is set in 1943. Pucci flies planes for the United States Army Air Forces, ferrying them to wherever they are needed, thereby freeing up her male counterparts for combat duty. Pucci also works for, and was trained by, the Office for Strategic Services (OSS) as a counterspy to ensure that no axis groups are operating in the United States. The OSS was created in 1942 to collect information and to form strategies needed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff for operations not covered by other agencies. It did not, however, oversee all foreign intelligence operations, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was responsible for Latin American intelligence, and the military had its own intelligence responsibilities. The OSS is now the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Pucci is first recruited by FBI agent Dante when she flies a B-24 bomber to the Willow Run aircraft factory near Detroit, MI. After finding the corpse of a worker, Dante tells her that the dead man was a Nazi spy and that they are watching another man, Otto, whom they suspect is giving aircraft information to the Germans. He asks her to watch Otto, while she poses as a reporter at the classy Cosmos Club, where she interviews women about their contributions to the war effort. Otto's wife is a beautician at the women's club, and it also appears that other members may not be acting in the best interests of the United States. Pucci next plays the part of a captured jewel thief and joins Buchanan-Dineen in jail to try to determine if Buchanan-Dineen is working for the FBI or if she has crossed over and is helping the Nazis. The story also brings in the details of a failed plot to attack the United States.
Mary Ann Smyth reviewed the novel for the BookLoons Web site, writing: "The rendering of the times is well-done, down to the fashions, hairdos, social life, and the attitudes of civilians during wartime." " Lipstick and Lies is a fabulous WWII espionage action adventure that gives the audience a taste of the era from a rarely seen focus; that of a WASP," wrote Harriet Klausner for Harriet Klausner's Book Reviews Web site. A Kirkus Reviews contributor concluded: "A sharply written adventure/mystery debut with a fine feeling for the period."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2007, David Pitt, review of Lipstick and Lies, p. 35.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2007, review of Lipstick and Lies, p. 54.
BookLoons,http://bookloons.com/ (November 20, 2007), Mary Ann Smyth, review of Lipstick and Lies.
Harriet Klausner's Book Reviews,http://harrietklausner.wwwi.com/ (November 20, 2007), review of Lipstick and Lies.
Margit Liesche Home Page,http://www.margitliesche.com (November 20, 2007).