Beginning in 1940, the Trent Park estate outside London housed captured German Luftwaffe pilots to extract military information. The rooms of the house were equipped with hidden microphones to MI19 operatives could listen in on their conversations.
In 1942, it became a prisoner-of-war camp (the Cockfosters Cage) for German generals and staff officers. They were pampered with delectable meals, fine wine and whisky, and luxury accommodations in hopes they would lower their guard and converse openly about military intelligence. The British Germany’s military capabilities, weaponry, war crimes, and the resistance movement. Among the 109 German top brass held at Trent Park were generals Otto Elfeldt, Ferdinand Heim, Gerhard Bassenge, Friedrich Freiherr von Broich, Heinrich Eberbach, Georg Neuffer, Dietrich von Choltitz, Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke, Hans Cramer, and Ritter von Thoma, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, and Admiral Walter Hennecke (the man in charge of all sea defenses for Normandy, France).
Such is the backdrop for Tessa Harris’s new historical novel, The Light We Left Behind. In 1944, psychologist Maddie Gresham is sent a mysterious message ordering her to report to Trent Park. It will be her job to gain the Nazis’ trust and coax them into giving up information. When Max Weitzler, a Jewish refugee, also arrives, Maddie is stunned. The two had met and fallen in love in Germany before the war. She’d held onto hope that he had escaped the Nazi threat. But their love must remain a secret. When there’s a shocking death at the mansion, Maddie realizes that not everyone at Trent Park is on the same side.
The Light We Left Behind is a fascinating twist on women’s wartime efforts in England. I’d never heard of MI19, a section of the British Directorate of Military Intelligence during WWII, and their role at Trent Park makes for a gripping emotional novel about love, sacrifice, and betrayal. It was well-paced and features an intelligent, courageous heroine. 4 stars.
Published date: December 2021
Genre: Spy thriller, historical fiction
Read-alikes: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn, The Lost Girls of Paris, by Pam Jenoff
* Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book. The opinions are my own.