The indignities of being a woman during World War II in Washington, D.C.
Youngish widow Louise Pearlie, earning the grand sum of $1,600 a year as the Chief File Clerk of the Europe/Africa Section of the Research and Analysis Branch of the Office of Strategic Services, is good at organizing index cards but woefully inept at knitting socks for the boys over there. Still, she joins a Friday evening knitting circle, where she’s befriended by Alessa, who takes her aside and asks her to deliver a message of great importance to her superiors. And just like that, Louise (Louise’s War, 2011, etc.) becomes a secret agent, passing information from Alessa to the higher-ups at OSS that will ensure the safety of convoys sailing from the New York docks to Casablanca with Allied supplies and troops. Given a crash course at The Farm, Louise learns defensive maneuvers, is given a Schrade pocketknife and a cover story, and is giddy with the thrill of it all until Alessa commits suicide before she can deliver the name of the spy who’s been working the waterfront and giving the Nazis vital shipping information. Shocked, Louise, who insists that the suicide was staged, finds herself sidelined when Operation Underworld is shut down. Undeterred, she carries on alone, befriending both a low-level Mafioso working at the Mayflower Hotel and members of Alessa’s entourage living in its penthouse suite. Snooping in Alessa’s boudoir will demand skills learned at The Farm and reveal the shattering fact that she has been set up from the beginning.
An alarming reminder of how sexist life was back in the ’40s and how the Mafia took root in Sicily.