When you first meet Livy Nash, antiheroine of M. L. Huie’s debut novel, Spitfire (Crooked Lane), she certainly doesn’t appear to live up to her feisty moniker. But as she pulls herself out of her vodka-soaked sleep and embarks on a dangerous mission, she pulls the reader into the novel. It doesn’t take long to understand how she earned her reputation or to be thoroughly captivated by the intriguing storyline.

The post-World War II setting provides abundant twists for this espionage-filled historical mystery. Livy, once an elite British secret agent, now works a mind-numbing office job by day, while by night she attempts to forget the man she loved and lost during the war. Next to Peter Scobee during the war she felt alive and indispensable; now, she feels only hollow and adrift. 

AN OPPORTUNITY FOR VENGEANCE

Naturally, when the enigmatic Ian Fleming offers her the chance to hunt down the traitor who cost her everything, Livy can’t refuse. Fleming needs her to retrieve a crucial list of names making up the mysterious and deeply powerful Mephisto network, a list which Livy’s old nemesis now controls. Since whoever runs this network controls the trajectory of the ravaged world, Livy is not the only one working to get her hands on it; the American, Russian and French forces continually hinder her, sometimes help her and always entangle her as they all struggle to solve the mystery. Livy quickly realizes just how high the stakes of her assignment are as she navigates devious double agents, uncooperative informants, life-threatening confrontations and ever-changing rules of the game. The result is a truly page-turning, enthralling and ultimately fulfilling read. 

As far as protagonists go, Livy Nash is entirely distinctive. Though admirably resilient, daring and somewhat reckless (all necessary qualities for a first-rate literary secret agent) she also has a genuinely sensitive and thoughtful spirit. She wrestles with myriads of outside dangers but also has to pay her dues to her own emotions and complicated history with both the war and the people who fought in it. Her multifaceted character is raw and well-written, and Huie does an excellent job building both internal and external conflict for his leading lady to resolve. Best of all, he leaves just enough unanswered to make Livy’s narrative poignant and convincing, while still creating a strong central character who the reader can’t help but get behind. 

A NEW WAR — AND A CHOICE OF BATTLES TO FIGHT

Livy often struggles to prioritize the greater cause over her personal vendettas, but eventually recognizes that she has to relinquish her past in order to help create a better future both for herself and her country. Her journey from an embittered, shattered and self-destructive woman to someone prepared to face her demons and choose what’s right gives the action-packed novel unanticipated depth and heart. Her distinctive voice and rich backstory only add to her feisty personality. 

All the supporting characters are well-crafted, and the setting, which jumps between England and France, is meticulously researched. The many astute historical details provide an intriguing context while reminding the reader that stories such as Livy’s aren’t a far cry from real post-war experiences. Most significantly, the novel moves at a rapid pace and is so full of baffling revelations that it completely immerses the reader. If you’re after a riveting spy thriller with the added bonuses of an intrepid female protagonist, a fascinating historical setting, and a nuanced depiction of challenging ethical decisions, Spitfire will be a winner (and leave you hoping that the author gives us another opportunity to accompany Olivia Nash on her pursuits.)

Spitfire is now available for purchase. Learn more about Huie on his BookTrib author page.

About M.L. Huie:

M. L. Huie is a writer, teacher and actor. In addition to working as a features journalist, he has written several plays that have been performed throughout the US and in the UK. He is a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association, and teaches theater and acting at the university-level. He is married to a brilliant woman and has two genius kids. Like Livy Nash, he loves the northwest of England and has a Yank’s appreciation for a good Lancashire Hot Pot. Spitfire is his first novel. His second, Nightshade, will be published in 2021.