STARRED REVIEW
April 12, 2016

The socialite spy

By Howard Blum
Review by
The motives for living the life of a spy, author Howard Blum tells us, are subsumed under the rubric MICE—Money, Ideology, Coercion, Excitement. For the well-educated and well-to-do socialite Betty Pack (1910-1963), the prime motivation was clearly excitement, with just enough ideology thrown in to give her actions a veneer of nobility.
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The motives for living the life of a spy, author Howard Blum tells us, are subsumed under the rubric MICE—Money, Ideology, Coercion, Excitement. For the well-educated and well-to-do socialite Betty Pack (1910-1963), the prime motivation was clearly excitement, with just enough ideology thrown in to give her actions a veneer of nobility. Born Amy Elizabeth Thorpe, she realized early that her striking good looks and sense of command made her irresistible to men. She invested (rather than lost) her virginity at 14 and enjoyed a series of lovers until she found herself pregnant at 19 and uncertain of who the father was. She then very prudently ensnared and married Arthur Pack, a minor British diplomat who, if nothing else, gave her rank and entry into various government circles where official secrets were kept—and, thanks to her zeal, stolen.

But Pack, animated as she was by “a terrible restlessness,” brought considerably more than sexual magnetism to the job. She was also courageous, quick-witted and doggedly persistent once given an assignment. When it appeared that a night watchman was about to catch her and her accomplice on a safe-cracking mission, she quickly stripped naked, leaving the guard to mumble his apologies for interrupting—after he’d gotten an eyeful, of course. Although she was an American, Pack began spying for the British in the late 1930s against Germany, Italy and Vichy France at outposts in Chile, Spain, Poland and Washington. After America entered World War II, it also became a beneficiary of the intelligence she collected.

Drawing on memoirs, diaries, letters and official documents, Blum takes us into Pack’s mind—both as she assessed her thoughts and motives and as those around her did. The Last Goodnight is a very intimate accounting of a singular personality. Pack was a faithless wife and an indifferent mother, but one could hardly imagine a more attentive lover. After all, every tryst was a report in the making.

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The Last Goodnight

The Last Goodnight

By Howard Blum
Harper
ISBN 9780062307675

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