An investigator in Paris, France who specializes in finding individuals who were lost during World War II is tasked with tracking down a courier who was captured by the Germans.
The Lost Spy has all of the elements to keep you up at night until you’ve turned the last page. Espionage, excitement, mystery, a globetrotting adventure, and a lesbian love triangle are all packed into this story. Author Kate Moira Ryan puts a unique spin on typical World War II fictional narratives by establishing modern relationships and creating conflicts that transcend the time period. Ryan combines a plethora of genres from hard boiled crime to lesbian romance to paint a portrait with strokes that appeal to everyone. Classic mystery loves like myself will have a particular appreciate for the Agatha Christie references sprinkled throughout. Although Slim Moran sure is sexier that Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot.
Ryan’s main character, Slim, is not a gay lady herself, but some of her closest friends and allies are. Slim lives above a space that her friend Francoise has turned into a lesbian bar. The women in The Lost Spy are strong, complex, and multi-dimensional, with much left to explore in further installments of the series. As Slim’s investigation ends up diving into her friend’s past, Francoise and the frequent patrons of her club are far from the only lesbians who make prominent appearances in this novel. Even though the story is told from Slim’s point of view, the lesbian characters are not sidelined, but rather explored and represented as equally compelling characters.
The plot is fast-paced and unpredictable, with subtle twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the climax. My only complaint though, revolves around the handling of the romance angle of the lesbian storyline, which involves a rather spoilery aspect of the plot. Without going into too much detail, I’ll only say the love triangle created and what results from it is a bit stereotypical when it comes to the taboos of lesbian dynamics. However, the book does a flawless job embedding the sexuality of these women organically into the story.
We all know about the atrocities LGBT people faced during the war, and The Lost Spy chooses to instead explore the recovery through all facets of human emotion from tenderness to jealousy and everything in between. These characters’ arcs don’t grapple with oppression or coming out of the closet for who they are. They just exist, as lesbians, living their lives to the fullest during the aftermath of the war. Ryan treats these women just like the rest of her characters, with intention, curiosity, and concern.
Francoise is tough as nails, and the dynamic between her and the dogmatic Slim is fresh and fun. My only complaint is that we didn’t get even more interaction with them. I’d love to see a deeper dive into Francoise as an individual character in the next book of the series. Slim’s one night out in her club as a judge for a drag contest didn’t quite quench my thirst for that setting to play a larger part in the future. More dancing lesbians, please!
Love and War
The historical elements of The Lost Spy are nuanced, thoughtfully weaved throughout the story. Kate Moira Ryan delicately yet unflinchingly exposes some of the gruesome German history of the war. Reading history books and watching documentary create a broad picture of the atrocities, but the intimacy of Slim’s visits to specific camps, interactions with prior Nazi doctors, and intimate relationship with a survivor of Auschwitz pay homage and give recognition to what these people endured. There’s an intensity in love during a time of war that’s unparalleled, which creates a desperation that can be felt among all of these characters as we flash back to their actions during the war. Ryan does a terrific job tying together glimpses of the past with Slim’s search in the “present”.
If you’re looking for a wintry escape into the past and ready for a page turner that has everything, The Lost Spy is definitely the book for you. Once you read it, be sure to come back over here and let me know what you thought and if you solved the mystery yourself. Bonsoir!