In preparation for the reviews I’ll soon be posting of MacNeal’s second and third Maggie Hope books, I decided to start at the beginning by copy-pasting from Goodreads the review I wrote for her first – because it is very important to take things in the proper order.
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary
The Maggie Hope Mysteries #1
Susan Elia MacNeal
From Goodreads: “For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne Perry, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary captures the drama of an era of unprecedented challenge—and the greatness that rose to meet it.
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 minds 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 codebreaking, 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 have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.
Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself.
In this daring debut, Susan Elia MacNeal blends meticulous research on the era, psychological insight into Winston Churchill, and the creation of a riveting main character, Maggie Hope, into a spectacularly crafted novel.”
Personally, I loved Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. Maggie is quick and spunky, the supporting characters actually do provide support, and the story itself is light enough for holiday reading but intense enough to keep my attention for the majority of a twenty-four hour car trip. The history is well-articulated and atmospheric without being an oppressive infodump, though I suspect that some historical liberties were taken in the interest of driving the plot; however, it was nothing that would make my inner history buff growl. Honestly, I like seeing strong, feminist characters ahead of their time, and I absolutely love seeing strong, feminist characters who are strong because of their intellect.
In short: fun story, fun characters, occasional deep moments, little to cause a mystery fan discomfort.
It’s a short review, sorry. I wrote it a year and a bit ago, and on rereading it, I feel that the language I used was a bit dismal, considering that I do strongly recommend the book and the subsequent two in the series. In fact, I’ll likely pad out that review once I’ve had a chance to reread the book, but I wanted to get this up here before I got the next ones up here, which will be soon – and it’s important to take things in the proper order.