The life and career of a tough, profane, cool-headed secret agent who worked for British and American intelligence in both hot and cold wars.
Mitchell’s (The Freedom Summer Murders, 2014, etc.) tedious tally of quick encounters, obscure locales, and vaguely described tasks sucks the juice out of what is plainly a rip-roaring tale. Not the least deterred by blowing off her own foot in a hunting accident (she dubbed her prosthetic limb “Cuthbert”), Maryland-born Hall played such an important role building networks of informants in Vichy France (“I’ve made some tart friends,” she reported, who “know a hell of a lot!”), supplying arms and advice to insurgents, and helping prisoners escape that she was both made a member of the Order of the British Empire and awarded a Distinguished Service Cross by the U.S.—the latter being the only one given to a civilian woman in World War II. Here, though the author does direct nods to many of her intrepid associates, he buries her own exploits in generalities and extraneous minor details plus, for her later years in the CIA, eye-blearing boilerplate from internal personnel reviews. The backmatter offers plenty of documentation, but the small period photos throughout are too often only tangentially relevant to the narrative.
A dry, dreary waste of a grand subject, well below the author’s usual standard. (bibliography, endnotes, index, maps) (Biography. 12-15)