Eighteen-year-old Alexandra Cockrell wants to save people from experiencing the same Nazi brutality that killed her grandparents in Belgium. Her Belgian heritage and ability to fluently speak all Western European languages, combined with her paramilitary training, make her an ideal operative for the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS).
In May 1944, Lieutenant Jason Norris is on his way to Naples, Italy, with top secret papers concerning Operation Dragoon, the Allies’ planned invasion of Southern France slated for August. After Germans shoot down his plane over Belgium, Alexandra parachutes into enemy territory to locate Norris and destroy the secret papers before the Germans learn of Operation Dragoon. What Alexandra doesn’t know is that Jason no longer has the papers. He lost them when he jumped from the plane.
A chance encounter with a Gestapo officer complicates Alexandra’s mission, since she is with him when she finally locates Jason. Before they begin the arduous trek over the Pyrénées into neutral Spain with the help of the Resistance and a Basque guide, Alexandra must convince Jason she’s not a double agent and locate the missing papers. But the Gestapo knows of this escape route and sets a trap to catch them.
Although less well-known than the D-Day Invasion, Operation Dragoon was equally important. Smith superbly weaves the historical facts into the fiction, but the story never achieves the level of tension and suspense readers will expect. There are two poignant episodes, but only once does the danger truly seem perilous. The story is geared for a middle-grade (ages 8-12) audience, but there are no children in the story. It’s an interesting tale, but the inclusion of the “wow” factor would have made this promising idea into great historical fiction.