Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook is set mainly in Germany in the first few months after the end of World War Two, a period when there was a scramble for power out of the wreckage of war. Into this scenario walks Edith Graham, a frustrated teacher who wants to do more with her life.
Offered an opportunity by a distant relative, Edith takes a job in Germany helping to start schools for children displaced by war, but she has also signed the official secrets act and has been asked to watch and listen for information which might lead to the arrest of war criminals.
As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that not everyone hunting Nazi party members wants to bring them to justice. Britain, America and Russia are all interested in the top scientists and medical doctors and have their own plans for these people – while Edith’s friend Dori is searching for missing British agents who disappeared under suspicious circumstances close to the end of the war.
Before Edith went to Germany she was asked by Dori to send her coded information about what was going on, because the she felt hampered in her search for a mole in the SOE (Special Operations Executive). Edith devised a message coding system using recipes, to send Dori her news.
I really enjoyed this story, as it took me to an era connected to the World War which was also the start of the Cold War and one I know very little about; I was quite shocked by some of the things that I read, especially about the war criminals and other Nazi party members.
The women in this book were the highlights for me; they shone through clearly and there were several great characters, all easily distinguishable. The male characters were harder to picture and I did get a little muddled between some of them and with which operation they belonged to, although this may have been deliberate in a double-crossing espionage style. I also liked the coded recipe idea and looked forward to guessing the messages between the lines of ingredients.
To sum this story up; a different type of World War Two story with an espionage theme which gave me much to think about especially with the advancements in science and medicine which took place in Germany during the war and where that information went after the war.
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World War II has just ended, and Britain has established the Control Commission for Germany, which oversees their zone of occupation. The Control Commission hires British civilians to work in Germany, rebuild the shattered nation and prosecute war crimes. Somewhat aimless, bored with her job as a provincial schoolteacher, and unwilling to live with her stuffy genteel parents any longer, twentysomething Edith Graham applies for a job with the Commission—but is instead recruited by the OSS. To them, Edith is perfect spy material…single, ordinary-looking, with a college degree in German. And there’s another thing—the OSS knows that Edith’s brother went to Oxford with one of their most hunted war criminals, Count Kurt von Stabenow, who Edith remembers all too well from before the war.
Intrigued by the challenge, Edith heads to Germany armed with a convincing cover story: she’s an unassuming schoolteacher sent to help resurrect German primary schools. To send information back to her OSS handlers in London, Edith has crafted the perfect alter ego, cookbook author Stella Snelling, who writes a popular magazine cookery column that embeds crucial intelligence within the recipes she collects. But occupied Germany is awash with other spies, collaborators, and opportunists, and as she’s pulled into their world, Edith soon discovers that no one is what they seem to be. The closer she gets to uncovering von Stabenow’s whereabouts—and the network of German civilians who still support him—the greater the danger.
With a unique, compelling premise, Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook is a beautifully crafted and gripping novel about daring, betrayal, and female friendship.