“Book Review: Hall of Mirrors”
Reviewed by R. Read
Historical spy fiction with a captivating female lead
Not since Memoirs of a Geisha have I been so gripped by a man writing in the first person as a woman! Author Craig Gralley took me directly into the mind of one of the most fascinating spies in America’s history. Engaging from the very first page, this thrilling historical fiction novel offers an empowering message behind the inspiring story of one woman’s ability to overcome her mental and physical obstacles to achieve the incredible.
The courageous Virginia Hall, one of the most notorious assets for American and British forces, comes alive on the pages of Hall of Mirrors. Accompanied by Hall’s internal thoughts, readers journey through France during German occupation, under the constant threat of death, imprisonment, or capture. The pace surely ratchets up against this ominous backdrop.
Posing as a New York Post columnist, she can change her identity with ease, escape the Gestapo, and even master “the one skill that all agents must have but could not be taught: the ability to create a believable, spontaneous lie.”
I felt enthralled with Virginia’s boldness and unique abilities. Organizing resistance groups proves to be no easy task in this one, and neither does staying alive. But we feel confident in Virginia, guided by her strong, brilliant voice: “…a masquerade. Convince your mark you’re someone you’re not. Tell them a story. Sell your character. Above all, become the lie.”
One of my favorite takeaways from this tale is the concept of excitement being the twin of fear. “The same heart flutter, shallow breathing, dryness of mouth.” I felt all the fear and excitement in these pages, and because of that, I really couldn’t put the book down.
History books can be tedious at times, but reading Hall of Mirrors makes it feel as though you are inside enemy territory. Checking over my shoulder as I read page after page, I turned away family and phone calls to find out what happens next. It was a truly dynamic reading experience.
“Collecting secrets under the noses of those who would kill you. That was what made the blood pulse through my veins, heightened my senses, made me see the world with a clarity few outside of it could comprehend.”
As Virginia tells us, the worst thing that could happen is for someone’s life to end in an arbitrary way, before they can make their mark. You can feel author Craig Gralley’s enthusiasm toward Virginia Hall’s escapades in his prose, and it’s furthered when you learn that he even ventured out onto her arduous escape route over the Pyrenees mountains. Only difference? Gralley didn’t do it with a prosthetic wooden leg.
Get your reading in now. You’ll want to hear this voice before the story hits the big screen.
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