The Secret of the Grand Hôtel du Lac
“Dripping with suspense on every page” — JJ Toner
Reviewed in the United States on January 17, 2021
It was 1943 in the Haute-Jura region of France where Elizabeth Maxwell is preparing for her re-insertion into occupied France as an SOE operative for a mission unlike any other she had undertaken previously. In this instance, she was being tasked to find her husband Guy Maxwell a fellow SOE agent who had disappeared after failing to report to London via radio.Elizabeth’s mission was fraught with danger from numerous sources as it was unknown why contact with the maquisards had broken down or whether Guy had been captured or killed. While it appeared to be like looking for a needle in a haystack, Elizabeth was fully prepared to face the dangers of capture herself in an attempt to solve the mystery and to repair the network.The Author, Kathryn Gauci, whose books I have admired previously is once again at her stunning best with a narrative that simply does not let up in suspense and drama but again and again her meticulous attention to detail and knowledge of this location in France, and in particular, the period in question is without parallel.
Even as she describes her preparations in England, I am reminded of my own life experiences so much so that when she casually remarked about Flanagan and Allen, I was immediately reciting the songs to myself of “Underneath the Arches” and “Run Rabbit Run, Run”
Elizabeth had the task of re-establishing radio contact with London and to hide the radio. Here again, small details are so important in a narrative of this sort, and as an author, she made it clear the agent knew the importance of keeping transmissions brief and how long it would take for a German tracing device to discover her location.
All the time she was re-connecting with known & trusted maquisards there were other contacts that required careful screening before she could discover clues of where and what happened to the love of her life. During this period the Gestapo were increasing their pressure on the region and thousands were being rounded up either as suspects for interrogation or for conscription for the Service du Travail Obligatoire or (STO) in which thousands of Frenchmen were forced to work in the German industrialized complexes. It was a compulsory Work Service and those who did not sign up or report were either shot or deported.
This proved to be a strong recruiting tool for the Resistance where men were willing to join the maquis instead of being forced to go to Germany. (My own French brother-in-law was forced to work in Germany under the STO)
Her quest for finding Guy leads her to a strange Hotel close to a lake where she discovers it is a favorite resort of the German high command in the region. This situation requires all of her skills she has been taught in England and Elizabeth discovers the Hotel has other secrets that propel her forward in her dangerous mission.
If you have never read a Kathryn Gauci historical novel, I urge you to drop everything and pick this one up. You will be engrossed from page to page. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
David E. Huntley – January 18, 2021
Reviewed in the United States on January 24, 2021
Reviewed in the United States on December 16, 2020
Gauci’s bailiwick is historical fiction often centered on heroes and heroines of World War I and World War II, as well as the interwar years, a Tussaud’s gallery of characters, so lifelike, so believable, so fleshed out that even nose to nose with them, you swear they are real. You end up asking yourself what devices this author uses to sculpt such three-dimensional characters out of a two-dimensional medium. The talent hails from a pool of some private source—a codified chamber of raw stuff ripe for shaping not responsive to just anyone. Only a few know the password, and Gauci is an honored, an awarded member of that select group.
Don’t let me make it sound a simple task, this chiseling, carving, molding, this blood, sweat, and tears of novel making. Pay close attention and you will get a notion of the enormous effort involved in it, the hours of research, the day upon day of pecking on a keyboard, the meals foregone, the companionship postponed until those final two words are spelled out: the THE END! The thing is though, that closing the last page of one of Gauci’s books leaves you wanting another one and another one.
THE SECRET OF THE GRAND HÔTEL DU LAC tells the story of Elizabeth Maxwell, code name Marie-Élise Lacroix, wartime spy for Britain operating in the months of the buildup of the World War II Allied invasion of Normandy. On a perilous mission to find and rescue missing comrades, one of whom is her husband, she is dropped by parachute in the thick of Nazi-Occupied France, a place overrun with Wehrmacht machines of war, patrolling German soldiers, the Gestapo, and the Milice Française, the Vichy regime’s armed and dangerous militia that held allegiance to Nazi Germany and fought against the French Resistance. The setting and backstory of the novel are thrilling and the suspense intense. I rate it a 5-star read and predict it will whet your appetite for Gauci’s entire body of work.
Gauci is a superb “passeur” (guide) through the mysteries of the Grand Hôtel du Lac and in resurrecting its “ghosts.” She tells us in the Postscript of her novel, “Like all stories, they fade over time. For me it was a powerful story and one that I could not let go. One thing is for sure, it was like walking through the countryside accompanied by ghosts, and I hope that in my own small way, I have brought the bravery of those ghosts alive again.” There are hints that she is brewing a new saga in her Melbourne, Australia studio of literary enchantments. Oh, goody, goody!© -From Linda Lee Greene, Author & Artist
When a writer takes the time to research the background, history and setting before weaving them through a plot, it shows. The author actually lived in the area in which this WWII story is set and the local knowledge and attention to detail shines through.
The fearless courage of the resistance fighters is described in detail, inspired by real life British and French agents who operated in the region during the war. Monuments to their bravery now dot the peaceful countryside and this well-crafted novel is a further tribute to their unwavering commitment and loyalty.
I devoured The Secret of the Grand Hotel du Lac. The author brings to life a tragic period of French history–the years of German occupation. The story has all the elements of historical fiction at its best: vividly depicted atmosphere of mortal danger; heroes (subversive acts could land a citizen in jail, or worse, even not reporting was as dangerous as the resistance activity); villains and anti-heroes, willingly or unwillingly cooperating with the invaders (i …more
Marie-Elise was a strong and brave heroine as where all the women and men in the resistance in France during WWll. This story stays suspenseful to the very end. Well written Kathryn Gauci
Reviewed in the United States on December 31, 2020
Reviewed in the United States on December 27, 2020
The Secret of the Grand Hôtel du Lac is a fascinating read that keeps you turning the pages, deeply immersed in the story. I enjoyed this book immensely and am looking forward to reading more of Gauci’s tales.
This was a WWII story set primarily in France (with Some scenes in England.) Much of it takes place during the latter part of the war and focuses mainly on the story of a few women who were part of the resistance movement. This book is a work of historical fiction, and while the characters are fictional, their tale is based on places that existed and events that happened during the war.
The women depicted in this book were brave and often took great risks to help free the people of France from German control and oppression. I was fascinated by their stories. Some sought to help by working as double agents, often appearing to be collaborators who were involved with high ranking German officials, but were in reality only doing so to gain useful information and offer aid to the French resistance.
Such actions were incredibly dangerous as discovery of the truth by the german officials would likely mean torture and death, yet as they were often acting in secret, their own countrymen often saw them as traitors to France, potentially also ending with their deaths.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories that have a basis in actual events as well as to anyone who enjoys tales of WWII resistance fighters. I greatly enjoyed reading this book. While there may be many stories of the resistance fighters in WWII, I have not read too many of them, and very few from perspectives such as were shown to us in this book.
The Secret of the Grand Hotel du Lac
By Kathryn Gauci.
I absolutely loved it. It was suspenseful,romantic, it had complex Characters.
It was so descriptive I could picture each place she wrote about.
She didn’t find it necessary to use Profanity or explicit sexual scenes.
I would read it again and I normally do not read books again.
A great Author.
I can’t wait to read her next book.
I highly recommend reading this awesome book.
It soon becomes clear that the network has been …more
Reviewed in Australia on 9 January 2021