As the Cold War rages, twelve-year-old Colette (Col) Schmidt, flees Leipzig with her mother after they discover her secret policeman father is a Nazi war criminal.
Settled in England by MI6, the lies Col must tell to hide her true origins weigh down her budding friendships. She makes inadvertent slips that expose her origins to her friends, but these reinforce and deepen their relationships. After MI6 use the pair as bait to lure out communist agents, they ship Colette and her mother to Australia. There, she is forced to use her linguistic skills to spy on the migrant communities. The risk of exposure causes the lies to proliferate and her internal conflict intensifies.
Masking her truth in necessary lies, she finds support from a school friend, a Russian émigré and a first World War Scottish soldier. But the lies she must tell and their cargo of guilt take her to the brink of a breakdown.