Thursday, November 29, 2012
Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
Synopsis From Back Cover:
London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest mind in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for code breaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never had have imagined - and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Room also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.
Earlier this month I posted a review for the second book in the series, Princess Elizabeth's Spy. I read them in order, but because of time restraints they aren't being reviewed in order, so I apologize to anyone who may be confused by that.
This will be a rather short review, because a lot of what I wanted to say about Maggie and her personality, I already said in the previous review. What I do want to touch upon is in the way the author combined the threat of a Nazi invasion and fresh bombings from the IRA to build the tension that Maggie and her friends find themselves living with every day of their lives. Now I don't know if there was ever any collaboration, at any level, between the two organizations, but the combination works brilliantly here. It forces Maggie and her friends to expect trouble from all directions, never really allow them to gain safe footing.
The other aspect I really enjoyed, and which I didnt' mention in the previous review, is the group of people that surround Maggie. From her aunt, a college professor in Boston, her gay best friend, the girls she shares her home with, the silent young man who seems to have taken some interest in her, her enigmatic parents, and even with Winston Churchill himself, the author has created a cast of supporting characters that I'm really looking forward to getting to know better. The fact that some of the closest people in her life aren't what they appear to be, makes it even better.
Now I know this is considered a mystery novel, and will be found in that section of a bookstore, I tend to think of books like this more of historical fiction, with a murderous or espionage twist. It's really about recreating the time period and atmosphere that someone in London during the war would experience. The spy craft and death are just added bonuses.