This spy wore Balenciaga.
Loftis, a lawyer and author of nonfiction espionage thrillers who last wrote about a Frenchwoman who spied for Britain during World War II, turns his attention to Aline Griffith (1923-2017), an American OSS agent based in Madrid. Not trusting Griffith’s multiple memoirs—including the romantically titled The Spy Wore Red and The Spy Went Dancing—which Loftis deems “historical fiction,” he mined her OSS files as well as other agents’ writings to create a brisk narrative filled with glamour, glitz, and mysterious characters. Having grown up in a small New York town, Griffith was eager for adventure. In 1943, at a friend’s dinner party, she told a handsome new acquaintance that she wished she could help in the war effort like her two younger brothers. Shortly after, she was recruited to train at America’s “first school of espionage,” and within weeks, she was assigned to go to Spain. Beautiful, bright, and apparently unflappable, she became a valued agent, carrying out missions, filing 59 field reports, supervising other spies, and tangling with German agents, Nazi collaborators, and enigmatic women, such as Countess Gloria von Furstenberg. Elegantly dressed, Griffith infiltrated high society, escorted by a roster of attractive admirers, including a famous matador and a Spanish aristocrat whom she later married, making her the Countess of Quintanilla. She lived, Loftis writes, “an extraordinarily multi-faceted life as a small-town girl, a model, a spy, a wife, a mother, a socialite, a fashion icon, and a celebrity.” She courted danger in order to serve her country, “then found the love of her life in a fairytale romance.” The author re-creates verbatim conversations and sumptuous settings in a narrative that often reads less like a spy thriller and more like a fairy tale, complete with Griffith’s many celebrity friends: Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy, the Duchess of Alba, and the Windsors, among them.
A lively history of a spirited woman.
Pub Date: today
Page Count: 384
Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021