The Unlikely Spy by Sophie Schiller Publication date: August 21st 2022 Genres: Adult, Historical, Romance, Thriller
Casablanca meets Notorious in a Hitchcock-style thriller of espionage, romance, adventure, and intrigue.
1917. Emma Christensen is a young widow who returns to the Danish West Indies to reclaim the life and the villa she left behind. When she discovers her husband has disinherited her in favor of his young heir—an illegitimate son—she turns to the one thing she knows, gambling, and soon finds herself deeply in debt.
Emma is approached by Cornelius Smith, a representative of an American shipping line, who offers an alternative: infiltrate the suspicious Hamburg-American Line and spy on its nefarious leader, Julius Luckner, to gain valuable business intelligence for his firm.
It doesn’t take long for Emma to realize that both Smith and Luckner are not as they seem. Close to the Allies but even closer to the enemy, Emma bravely engages in missions that could blow her cover at any moment. But with the Panama Canal at stake, how far will she go to help the Allies?
A gripping and suspenseful World War I spy thriller from an accomplished thriller and historical adventure writer.
When dinner was served, Emma found herself seated on one side next to Captain Larsen’s wife, Inge, and on the other side, by an American gentleman, a tall, distinguished fellow who tried to engage her in conversation. Though she was enjoying herself, she was in no mood for idle chatter, especially not with an American. But it was almost impossible to avoid his intrusive questions.
“Tell me, Mrs. Christensen, what brings you to the islands?” he asked.
She turned to meet his eyes. There was something charming about him in a lumberjack sort of way. He was near middle-age, but still ruggedly handsome, with chiseled features and inquisitive grey eyes. His deep voice and broad shoulders gave him the appearance of a cowboy or sheriff, like Tom Mix.
“I live here,” she said with mild annoyance. “And you?”
“I’m here on business. I’m doing research work in tropical botany for a Swiss company, Hoffmann-Laroche. I’m a botanist.”
“Funny, you don’t look like a botanist.”
“Did you know you have some of the most beautiful flora in the world here? I found a baobab tree on St. Croix that’s hundreds of years old with a circumference of over fifty feet. Some people call it the guinea almond tree because its seeds have a distinct nutty flavor. Its pods are filled with a dry powder that tastes like tamarind. They make a juice out of it. The flowers open at night and are fertilized by bats.”
“How perfectly charming,” she said, and turned toward Mrs. Larsen, hoping to keep the obnoxious American out of her sight. But he persisted.
“Tell me, Mrs. Christensen, have you ever really explored your islands?”
She stared at him. She was sure she had seen his face somewhere, but couldn’t place it. But while he was fetching to a degree, she was in no mood for idle chatter. She had too many problems to think about, too many worries. She had no time for baobab trees and their ridiculous courtship with bats.
“Why would I want to do that?” she said with mounting impatience.
“Because it’s beautiful, and it’s out there just waiting to be explored. And maybe a woman like you shouldn’t spend too much time indoors missing out on life.”
“That sounds very—”
“Presumptuous. I’ve been called that on many occasions. I apologize if I offended you. That was not my intention.”
“Have I seen you before?”
“I watched you once as you crossed the square in front of the Grand Hotel and later buying a newspaper. You seemed to have a lot on your mind. I’m not trying to pry, though.”
“How do you know all that?”
“I’m very observant.”
“I thought your observations were limited to baobab trees and bats.”
“Among other things,” he said, cheekily.
“What did you say your name was?” she asked, hoping to be seated next to someone else at the next dinner party.
“It’s Smith. Cornelius Smith,” he said, extending his hand. But by then she had picked herself up and moved out to the balcony where the men held court, smoking cigars.
She found a quiet seat where she sat sipping a glass of champagne proffered by a passing waiter. Some men talking about a card game to be held the following evening at the Italian Consul’s residence on Bluebeard’s Hill. She moved her seat closer. They were playing for high stakes, they said, which wetted her appetite. Somehow, she had to get an invitation to the game. She needed the chance to earn some real money. Gambling was her only chance of survival. Mr. Smith and the baobab trees could wait.
About the author:
Sophie Schiller is an author of historical fiction and spy thrillers. She loves stories that carry the reader back in time to exotic and far-flung locations. Kirkus Reviews has called her “an accomplished thriller and historical adventure writer.” Publishers Weekly called her novel, ISLAND ON FIRE, “a memorable romantic thriller”, her novel RACE TO TIBET, “a thrilling yarn,” and her TRANSFER DAY, “a page-turner with emotional resonance.” Kirkus Reviews called her latest novel, THE LOST DIARY OF ALEXANDER HAMILTON, “an engaging coming-of-age story of heartbreak, bravery, honor, and triumph.” Her latest novel is THE UNLIKELY SPY, a historical spy thriller set during WWI. She graduated from American University, Washington, DC and lives in Brooklyn, NY.