Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook

Written by Celia Rees
Review by Holly Faur

World War II might be over, but the aftermath has left countries decimated and countless people homeless and starving. When schoolteacher Edith Graham is approached to oversee the reconstruction of education for children in Germany, she is eager for a change of pace. But that will not be her only assignment. Her cousin asks for her help finding one of the British Secret Service’s most wanted war criminals, a man she once knew. Or thought she knew. Devising a plan to encode messages via written recipes under the assumed name, Stella Snelling, Edith is ready to face the brutal unknown to bring a man to justice.

With an unflinching look at the atrocities of war, Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook also highlights often forgotten details such as the cruelties against not only the Jews, but also anyone else who did not fit the Third Reich’s ideal, or those who went against them. Edith is a quiet, observant woman, determined to make things right in the schools she’s assigned to, as well as in the home she shares with a wide variety of housemates. The descriptions are factual, the dialog between characters usually brief and to the point. I loved that a recipe introduces nearly every chapter, but despite a short explanation of the coding techniques used, I found it hard to understand what they might be conveying—if I was meant to. There are definitely surprises along the way, some heartbreaking, while others are felt with great satisfaction. This is an important story with characters that will make you think.