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AIDE LERESTELLE

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Full Name: Aide Lerestelle
Nationality: French
Organization: French Intelligence
Occupation Part-Time Agent

Creator: Huan Mee
Time Span: 1899 - 1900

ABOUT THE SERIES

Aide Lerestelle is a part-time agent for French Intelligence.

I probably should throw in "freelance" because she definitely does not come across as being an actual employee. We see this shortly after we first meet her as she is approached by a man high up in the echelons of the government, possibly even the head of French Intelligence, a man named Roché. His goal is entice her to again undertake a mission for him. Note that statement well for two reasons: first, he goes TO HER to get her help rather than summon her, and second, he GOES to her in that he leaves his office and seeks her out, in the street outside a shop - a far different time than these days!

The time period of her activities is the turn of the century as the 19th makes way for the 20th. France is about halfway through its Third Republic but tensions are pretty taut with worries about Germany and Austria-Hungary and the need for solidifying alliances and pacts with other nations is tremendous as is the desire to keep such maneuvers very hush-hush.

She addresses this Roché as 'Premier' but at other times, far less formally for there is obviously a long friendship between them and possibly a fascinating history; she is not at all reticient to mildly chastise or tease him and in ending that brief meeting mentioned above, she sends him on his way in a cheery manner but with a "you weary me" tossed in. In response, he compliments her in earnest as being "the cleverest woman in Paris".

Lerestelle shows at the moment just how confident she is in her abilities for she informs us just after being asked to help and telling him her plans, "I already counted my mission as accomplished". As we will witness, her belief in herself will never waver even then life throws a few unforeseen obstacles in her path, a couple of which will have her certain she was about to breathe her last.

Lerestelle is obviously a woman of considerable wealth. Even before we are told in the second adventure that "she is one of the richest" in Paris, we watched her at a very high-end dress shop seeing a one-of-kind gown she admired; she insisted on buying it on the spot not bothering to ask the price and when told it was already purchased by someone else offered double and then triple. And the owner of the establishment, who was obviously familiar with her, was not the least surprised with the offer - nor with the petulant way she acted when denied.

In an interesting dichotomy, Lerestelle is a woman very used to the finest things with many of them just handed her - especially by her quite attractive and useful maid, Therese, while at the same time willing, and if truth be told, sometimes eager, to throw herself into unpleasant and dangerous situations to make sure that the confidence I mention above remains justified.

The reasoning for her willing involvement in the matters that Roché brings her from time to time is her "love for a little excitement, something to relieve the ennui of a solitary existence" though she is more apt to agree to a mission when there was the required "something of the glamour of romance".

Lerestelle brings to her occasional assignment a wonderful conceit: "A far-seeing Providence must surely have intended women to shine in diplomacy, for men are so impressionable, and some women so fascinating, that the victory is assured before the struggle commences".

Good Lines:
- Said by the French Premier, "men are diplomats by education, women by intuition. It is civilization against nature."
- Commented by Lerestelle, "Men, despite their deceit, are strangely truthful sometimes".
- Another observation by Lerestelle, "all men are young - or at least feel they are - when a pretty woman smiles upon them".
- Said by Roché concerning an English ambassador being an honorable man, "Tush! [He] is a diplomat, and the code of honor is different".
- In a wonderful show of conceit, when Lerestelle had to leave a skating partner for a meeting, she thought, "all my feminine friends were dying to skate with him. It went against my heart to give him up to a woman who would only bore him".
- Regarding a rival of Roché whom he says is "one of the greatest diplomats" and she calls "one of the most unscrupulous men in France", she concedes, "the terms are frequently synonymous".

BOOKS

Number of Books:1
First Appearance:1900
Last Appearance:1900

1 A Diplomatic Woman A Diplomatic Woman
Written by Huan Mee
Copyright: 1900

A collection of 6 short stories previously published in Cassell's Magazine from June to November of 1899. The stories are:
1. The Russian Cipher
2. Le Diable
3. The Abducted Ambassador
4. Prince Ferdinand's Entanglement
5. A Deal With China
6. Monsieur Roche's Defeat


NOVELLAS AND SHORT STORIES

Number of Stories:6
First Appearance:1899
Last Appearance:1899

1 The Russian Cipher The Russian Cipher
short story
Written by Huan Mee
Copyright: 1899

Published in Cassell's Magazine, June 1899. Reprinted in Espionage Magazine, May 1987. Collected in A Diplomatic Woman the next year.
Madame Lerestelle is asked personally by France's Premier Rochè to investigate how secret messages between him and the Russian Ambassador, Count Zarfine, have been intercepted, opened, decrypted, and then resealed, causing the intel inside regarding confidential negotiations to become known.

2 Le Diable Le Diable
short story
Written by Huan Mee
Copyright: 1899

Published in Cassell's Magazine, July 1899. Collected in A Diplomatic Woman the next year.
The Prime Minister, as well as the Minister of the Navy, appeals to Aide Lerestelle to assist in getting the inventor to sell it to France, or failing that, get as much intel on it as possible, especially how it can make the incredible speeds it is reported to make.

3 The Abducted Ambassador The Abducted Ambassador
short story
Written by Huan Mee
Copyright: 1899

Published in Cassell's Magazine, August 1899. Collected in A Diplomatic Woman the next year.
Aide Lerestelle was uninterested in receiving visitors when Monsieur Roché calls, this time to ask her assistance in the 'absurd' (her word) abduction of the English Ambassador. Roché agrees with her assessment, telling her the news of the kidnapping "is true and also that it is false". He needs her help because in truth the Ambassador is in possession of secret documents to France from Italy and it is vital he no longer have them.

4 Prince Ferdinand's Entanglement Prince Ferdinand's Entanglement
short story
Written by Huan Mee
Copyright: 1899

Published in Cassell's Magazine, September 1899. Collected in A Diplomatic Woman the next year.
Prince Ferdinand, son of the ruler of the small country of Elvirna, is having difficulties with a woman. He is scheduled to marry "for the good of the tiny kingdom" but has given his heart to another, "a third-rate actress". Roché asks Lerestelle to entice the man back to reason and "destroy this wretched entanglement"

5 A Deal With China A Deal With China
short story

Copyright: 1899

Published in Cassell's Magazine, October 1899. Collected in A Diplomatic Woman the next year.
Monsieur Roché appeals to Aide Lerestelle for help yet again. An envoy from China, presumably on a world tour for "pleasure and enlightenment" is really in France "to gain a pledge .. for defensive or even offensive protection". The envoy handed to Roché a small gold seal that was to be used to close the response for help. Within minutes of the delivery and before it could be used, the seal went missing. Lerestelle is asked to find who had stolen the now-valuable object.

6 Monsieur Rochè's Defeat Monsieur Rochè's Defeat
short story

Copyright: 1899

Published in Cassell's Magazine, November 1899. Collected in A Diplomatic Woman the next year.
When Monsieur Roché calls on Aide Lerestelle, he is distraught, certain that he had been betrayed and likely to be tossed from the government, all because of a duplicitous action by his secretary and confidante, Gaspard Levivé, for whom Lerestelle has particular fondness. Roché tells her that recently France received an insult so deliberately offensive that the country would be forced to go to war with the offending nation if word of it got out. Roché knew France was not prepared for such a conflict and would suffer for it, so the insult was to be hidden - for now! He got in writing from his biggest rival an agreement to that effect. Now that document, which had been in his safe, has been reclaimed by the rival and is being used as blackmail. Levivé is the prime suspect for who got it from the safe and gave it to the rival.

MY COMMENTS

I became enchanted with this series immediately because of the wonderful writing that these tales presented. Then came many short, pithy comments that both lay serenely amongst the other words and fairly leaped out at me. I adore finding 'good lines' to make special note of but I forced myself to limit the number or else I would have gone on and on.

There are numerous ways online to get a free copy of these stories and I strongly recommend any fan of spy-fi to give at least one a go. I think you find they flow so easily and pleasantly that you will want to read all of them.

GRADE

My Grade: B

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