Shadow Ally by Dianne Ascroft

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This book is set during the Second World War in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. In June of 1942, the Yankies (Americans) have arrived and are building a new airbase. Since their country is not at war, the American contractors must conceal the building project. America’s neutrality will be destroyed if Germany discovers its existence. But in a small town, such as Irvinestown, much of the population is employed on the new project and while all precautions possible have been taken, there always those who will ferret out information and pass it on to those who make it worth their while.

Several Yankies are staying at the family-run Corey’s Hotel. Ruth Corey works there with her mother. She serves meals, cleans up in the kitchen and makes the daily rounds to tidy up the rooms of the people who stay there. She is an amiable, happy young woman who chats up the customers, but when she speaks to Frank Long and asks him about how his project is going, he cuts her off short, making it clear that he thinks she is delving into his business and her interest isn’t welcome.

Harry Coalter has been staying at the Hotel lodge and he and Ruth have been walking out for a couple years now, so she thinks his intentions must be serious. He is an ambitious news reporter who constantly complains that writing about the Council’s shortage of horses and carts, a fire in a sweet shop and the Women’s Institute’s fundraising for the war effort won’t get him noticed by The Newsletter or any other city papers. He does not get along well with his boss, and whenever they get into a row he threatens to move to the city. That makes her very uneasy, because she sees him as her future partner, the man she hopes she will eventually marry. She was happy in Irvinestown and didn’t want to go anywhere else. She wasn’t sure she could follow him if he left.

While cleaning rooms, Ruth occasionally sees things that are unexpected. One day she saw Frank Longs identification card, and noted that his name was actually Frank Longo. She didn’t tell anyone else, but she did mention to him that he had forgotten his identity card that morning but wisely didn’t mention the difference in name.

Another time she finds a balled up scrap of paper on the floor in Harry Colters room. It had writing on it, so she decided that he may have dropped it by mistake. She read it and was puzzled by what she saw on it—fear struck her heart. It appeared that he was making notes about the new base. She knew that it would be disastrous if anyone published anything about it. In fact it was forbidden.

When she gave the piece of paper to Harry he made light of it, and Ruth tried to convince herself that this man that she had feelings for would never do anything that would get him in serious trouble.

Later she sees him talking to Mervyn Gormley, outside Reihill’s pub one morning. She was surprised to see Gromley there, when he should have been at work at the airbase. When she mentions it to Harry he brushes it off.

Ruth finds other evidence that Harry is pursuing a dangerous track, possibly one that could land him in prison. Desperate to protect him from himself, she goes to Frank Long and tells him what she has found. She hopes that Frank will be able to talk to someone higher: someone that will have the power to stop him from getting in trouble.

Frank and Ruth form an alliance to prevent the exposure of information that could have changed the face of the war and get Harry in trouble.

This is a tale that takes place in an era of conservatism, where young women are very conscious about how others will perceive them and their actions. It also takes place in a politically charged time on the world stage.

This is a well written, clean, short read; perfect for a lazy afternoon or an evening escape.