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“Beautiful Assassin ”

★★★★★

written by Harriet Klausner on 04/02/2010

Beautiful Assassin
Michael White
Morrow, Mar 30 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061691218

In 1996, reporter Elizabeth Meade muses over her obsession started a decade ago as the Soviet evil empire imploded when she first heard of the Russian sniper Tat'yana Levchencko. Elizabeth searched for clues about the Communist with Hollywood looks and a friend of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt during WWII. Now in Eastern Colorado she will confront an elderly widow begging to learn the true story of Tat'yana Levchenko.

At first hesitant as she does not want to be another Trotsky, the old woman tells how a poetess, mother, and wife became an empty nest widow avenging sniper Soviet-American heroine before being labeled a Communist spy. In 1942 the Germans without regard to civilians bombed and fired from the air at villagers in the Ukraine. A pilot saw her beloved three year old Masha and killed her. The sniper was born on that day as she joined the army. She became the top sniper and soon was invited to the White House by Eleanor Roosevelt. They became friends as they toured the country together. While Stalin demanded she spy on the Americans, Tat'yana realized these were not soft fat cats as described by Soviet propaganda. The American media began a blitzkrieg accusing her of being Stalin's pawn. She disappeared until now when a persistent reporter interviews an elderly widow.

This is a superb 1940s drama seen through the eyes of a woman five decades later after she vanished. Her story is one of sadness as she loathed the murdering Nazis killing them, but also detested the Cold War participants who "killed" Tat'yana in their abusive disregard for her which was worse in many ways than the Germans who overtly tried to kill her. Yet she also brings rays of hope that the human spirit can overcome almost anything as she did with her late second husband Walter and someone else even while telling her heartbreaking tale. This is a winner that condemns nations for their expendable deployment of individuals.

Harriet Klausner

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