Femme Fatale: Love, Lies and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari by Pat Shipman
On August 7, 1876, a Dutch family welcomed the birth of their beautiful daughter. Christened Margaretha Zelle, the girl would grow to become one of the most notorious spies in modern history. After an unsuccessful marriage, Margaretha moved to Paris and reinvented herself as the exotic dancer, Mata Hari. Over the next few years she would take many lovers. During World War I, Mata Hari’s flitting about Europe and involving herself with numerous men of various nationalities aroused the suspicions of the British and French secret service. She was eventually tried as a spy and found guilty. The author suggests Mata Hari’s promiscuity, lack of shame, and manipulations of men were the main reasons for her downfall—especially since there is little evidence Mata Hari did any serious spying for anyone. Nevertheless, the guilty verdict put her in front of a firing squad. Refusing to be tied to a stake, she stood on her own one October morning in 1917 waiting for the bullets to fly. When they tried to blindfold her she waved them off saying, “That won’t be necessary.” The commander of the firing squad responded, “By God, this lady knows how to die!” This is a fascinating new biography of an unusual woman who was very fond of men, but who wasn’t always so fond of the truth.