The fourth book in the Maggie Hope Mystery Series by Susan Elia MacNeal debuts tomorrow. As I cannot post that review until then (I still have a hundred pages left to read of my review copy), I thought I’d cover the first three books today and follow with the fourth tomorrow. Originally, all were going to be within this post. As I absolutely enjoy this series set admist the spy world of World War II, I’m hoping that I may attract a few new readers to it. In fact, I own copies of all four books!
Bantam, 2012. Trade paperback, 354 pages.
In this first of the series, readers are introduced to the series heroine, Maggie Hope, and her cohorts. The British-born Maggie moved to the United States as a young child with her aunt, whom took custody of Maggie after a tragedy involving her parents. The year before World War II began, the budding mathematician returned to England to sell her grandmother’s home but ended up staying and finding a group of friends. In the spring of 1940, one of those friends is instrumental in getting Maggie a job as one of Winston Churchill’s secretaries. She reluctantly takes the typist job, wanting instead of be one of the private secretaries in charge of conducting research. But there are some things Maggie doesn’t know that affect her role in #10 Downing and the War Rooms. And it is those things that lead to Maggie discovering a secret about her family and also becoming indirectly involved in a spy game between MI-5 and the Abwehr.
Besides the action/mystery side of the story, readers also gain an understanding on life on the domestic front for the Brits as Maggie and her friends, especially co-workers/Churchill’s private secretaries David Greene and John Sterling, enjoy London’s nightlife. In all, this book offered lots of historic details about life on the home front and in Churchill’s War Rooms. To me, the description of the air raids seemed to evoke the true fears someone would have felt back then. It also had moments that reminded me of old war comedies, such as Hogan’s Heroes or M*A*S*H.
Bantam, 2012. Trade paperback, 352 pages.
In the series’ second book, Maggie finds herself as part of Princesses Elizabeth and Margret’s household. Officially, she is to serve as Princess Elizabeth’s math tutor. Unofficially, Maggie is there to ferret out a spy. Someone has been providing the German’s intelligence from within Windsor Castle and there is a Nazi plot to replace the Duke of Windsor on the throne. Maggie must find out who is the spy while protecting the future queen. When a murder occurs on Maggie’s first morning at the castle, she begins to wonder if everything is interrelated. Aided by friends David Greene and Hugh Thompson, Maggie undertakes this role and discovers she has what it takes to become a spy herself. However, in contrast, a theme throughout the book is that of lost relationships–those with her parents and that with the man she loved–and how those affect her life.
This book mixed mystery with the upstairs/downstairs theme played out in Downton Abbey. Readers not only discover the life of the privileged few in wartime Britain, but also that of the servants in Windsor Castle. Again, the details of the home front provide a look at the era and the historical characters are realistically portrayed, right down to classic Churchill phrases, King George VI’s stuttering, and the royal family’s love of corgis.
Bantam, 2013. Trade paperback, 334 pages.
In the series third book, Maggie Hope is given her first overseas mission. Dropped into the heart of Germany, Maggie takes on a German persona to carry out a two-prong mission in Berlin. However, an opportunity presents itself and Maggie takes it. Over the course of this, Maggie encounters a ghost from her past. In a parallel story, Elise Hess is a nurse who is a devoted Catholic with a Nazi fanatic mother, Clara Hess. While Clara, an Abwehr agent, plots ways to end British opposition, Elise finds herself assisting the German resistance and a Jewish friends while hiding a British pilot. Soon their paths collide with unexpected results. Meanwhile, back in London, David Greene tackles a personal problem admist the growing war weary city and Hugh Thompson becomes involved in the Double Cross operation (see my review on Double Cross from the fall for more information).
Of the books, this one is my favorite. The action is non-stop. We see Maggie and David both develop and transform as characters, each in their own way. Elise’s struggle adds a poignant element, as she becomes aware of the children’s euthanasia program and takes steps to combat it. As always, the descriptions are vivid and details are historically accurate. Over all, this book marks a turning point in the character’s lives and sets the tone for the next book.
All the books
The storylines of all three books truly flowed, excellent back stories were build for all the characters, and I always wanted to know what would happen next. The books were hard to put down! The historical details of each book are supported by an extensive bibliography at the end noting the sources MacNeil used for her research. Now I want to read many of those book too!
Come back tomorrow for my review of The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent.