Intelligence researcher Hayes opens the door on the fascinating life of one of England's greatest spies, Daphne Park (1921-2010).
Unlocking that door is an achievement in itself. The author was able to interview her subject after her retirement from the British Secret Intelligence Service after receiving a life peerage to add to her Order of the British Empire award. Of course, given that her life’s work was espionage, the story she told was sparse. Hayes uncovered further information from retired colleagues from Oxford, the British government, SIS, the CIA, and even the KGB. Raised in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) by British parents, she was sent to England for school at age 11 and ended up at Somerville College, Oxford. She left Oxford in 1943 and joined the Special Operations Executive, eventually working with Operation Jedburgh paratroopers until the end of the war. Park had to be patient and extremely persistent in her work, but she succeeded in getting a place in the SIS. She served in Moscow, Congo, Zambia, and Hanoi, as well as three months in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, on an unknown operation. She eventually rose to the most senior operational rank in SIS. That list of her assignments is misleadingly simple, as she was always in the right place at the right time: Moscow during the Suez crisis; Leopoldville for the post-colonial face-off in Africa and the murder of Patrice Lumumba; Lusaka for the Rhodesian declaration of independence. Hayes had access to the recent history of England’s secret service, and she uses it to great effect. This is an excellent biography of a remarkable woman who easily built relationships to safeguard foreign policy objectives. She was forthright and obdurate, and she had an infectious sense of humor. Most importantly, she personified the qualities required: loyalty, respect, tradition, and absolute secrecy.
As exciting as any good spy thriller—but it’s all true.