This book did not begin on the beautiful Place Vendôme. It did not even being in Paris. This book first took shape, instead, one winter afternoon in the former eastern zone of Berlin, in a friend’s apartment overlooking the Alexanderplatz.
I was poring over a thick photocopied stack of British and French government documents on the wartime activities of the fashion designer Coco Chanel as we talked. Over and over again in declassified correspondence describing intelligence coming in from occupied Paris, I read the name of the Hôtel Ritz and its alternately famous and infamous residents. Some of those residents were high-ranking German officers and their Axis counterparts. Some were wealthy French civilians, some American. Many were spies with dizzyingly complicated loyalties and dangerous secrets. There, in opulent splendor, they all lived cheek by jowl on the Place Vendôme, bound up together in a complicated dance in a divided Europe.
–Tilar J. Mazzeo