Smith debuts with a tale that blends a good old gangster novel with a female spy thriller. Spanning two timelines and two points of view, this ambitious novel sweeps readers into Bonnie and Clyde’s world of bank heists as well as code-breaking in WWII. The novel begins with descriptions of heroine Lena’s work for the government, and then shifts to gang member Byron Godfrey’s voice as he relates their wild escapades during the Depression. The shifting eras and first-person accounts may not make the story cohesive for some, but any reader interested in the 1930s and 40s will find this a satisfying read with a unique perspective.
During WWII Lena works for the Canadian government breaking Japanese coded messages. Though she is dedicated and loyal she fears her past as a gang member will surface. The gang, led by American gangster Bill Bagley, stole payrolls and robbed banks during the Great Depression. Now she is drawn into the hunt for a spy. One of the gang members, Byron Godfrey, kept a journal and through his writing Lena’s past comes to light. He chronicles the gang’s wild life style and the romance between Lena and Billy, all the while longing for Lena to notice him. As Lena is caught up catching a mole, she comes to grips with her past — a time when life and love were very different than they are for her now. (THOMAS DUNNE, Apr., 240 pp., $25.99)