*Leila Meacham. Dragonfly. A novel.
Read by Christine Lakin, Jefferson Mays, Karissa Vacker, Maxwell Hamilton, Will Collyer, Zach Villa, Nicholas Guy Smith, Neil Dickson, Matthew Waterson, Moira Quirk, and Jim Meskimen. 15 CDs. 18.5 hrs.
In 1942, the American OSS (Office of Strategic Services) handler Major Alistair Renault, "the man in brown," recruits five young Americans, all born in 1920 through 1922. Fluent in French and German, and possessing special skills, these five will serve their country as spies in Nazi-occupied France. They are Victoria Grayson, a fencing champion; Bridgette Loring, a talented fashion designer; Christoph Brandt, a teacher and athlete; Brad Hudson, a fly fisherman; and Samuel "Bucky" Barton, a civil engineer. Each is given a cover name to provide a French identity beginning with the first letter of their real first names – Veronique Courbet, Bernadette Dufour, Claus Bauer, Bernard Wagner, Stefan Beaulieu. For their own protection, they will only know each other by their respective code names – Liverwort, Labrador, Lapwing, Limpet, and Lodestar. Each wants to perform national service, but each also has a private reason for joining the group. Together, they become a close-knit group code-named "Dragonfly." This complex naming is a bit confusing at first, but gradually, the story takes over with gripping tension, terrifying twists and turns, and nail-biting suspense. The book version includes a list of characters and their aliases. Needless to say, this would be helpful for the audiobook, too. The members of Dragonfly are embedded in French society with the purpose of capturing bits of information to assist the Allies in planning and executing the D-Day landing and the rescue of the Europeans suffering at the hands of Hitler and the Nazis. The Dragonflies only gradually realize that many Germans, even German officers of the SS, have anti-Hitler sentiments and are covertly waging a dangerous, internal resistance against his regime. Whom can they trust? Is anyone what he or she seems to be? Now, twenty years later, the Dragonflies are meeting in Paris at a place prearranged twenty years earlier to celebrate their survival, but one of their number has never been located. Newspapers at the time reported her death by firing-squad, but doubts concerning her demise have been recorded in the work of John Peterson, a historian. Is she dead or alive? They converge upon the reunion site hopeful to learn her fate. Eleven narrators enact the story – five for the five Dragonflies; the rest representing the American and Nazi officers, Renault, and other characters related to the French identities of the Dragonflies. All are excellent speakers, together contributing to the impression that you are listening to a well-crafted play, especially when some of the Dragonflies come under Nazi scrutiny and persecution.
Leila Meacham combines her skills as a researcher, storyteller, and dramatist in this excellent audiobook, which will surely appeal to adults and some teens who appreciate war stories (WWII), adventures, thrillers, historical fiction, spy stories, and emotionally engaging tales of friendship behind enemy lines.
Reviewed by Susan Allison