The secret World War II–era nuclear experiments carried on at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, provide ample incentives for spying—and ample opportunities for amateur sleuths.
Scientist Libby Clark may still be fighting sexism in the mostly male environs of Oak Ridge, but she’s gained the trust of several male colleagues who respect her opinions and talents as part of the group they call the Walking Molecules. So it’s only natural that her colleague Marvin Gray wants her to help his cousin Frannie Snowden, who he fears is about to be arrested for treason. Marvin claims that Frannie, a none-too-bright telephone operator, was convinced by Dr. Edwin Hansrote to put secret calls through her switchboard to a number in New York City. When Frannie listened in on a call, she realized that Hansrote was not receiving information but passing it on. Now Frannie’s hiding in a derelict cabin deep in the woods. When Marvin fails to show up for work, Libby and her pals search the woods and find his badly beaten corpse tied to a tree. They help Frannie escape to a hotel in town, where she pretends to be the wife of a group member while the rest of them try to figure out how to prove that Hansrote is a spy. The pressure cooker of suspicion that permeates the facility makes it nearly impossible to know whom to trust. A major crisis in her family forces Libby to visit her old home in Virginia and brings back bitter memories, but her friends carry on the investigation until she returns to them and to even greater danger.
This sequel to Scandal in the Secret City (2014), which has some basis in fact, is faster-paced than Fanning’s debut while maintaining the 1940s atmosphere and emphasizing the difficulties of wartime life, especially for educated women.