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Mr. Churchill's Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery Paperback – April 3, 2012
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“This wonderful debut is intelligent, richly detailed, and filled with suspense.”—Stefanie Pintoff
“A terrific read . . . Chock full of fascinating period details and real people including Winston Churchill, MacNeal’s fast-paced thriller gives a glimpse of the struggles, tensions, and dangers of life on the home front during World War II.”—Rhys Bowen, author of Royal Blood and winner of the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards
“Think early Ken Follett, amp it up with a whipsmart young American not averse to red lipstick and vintage cocktails, season it with espionage during the London Blitz, and you’ve got a heart-pounding, atmospheric debut. I loved it.”—Cara Black, author of Murder in Passy
“England in 1940 is the perfect backdrop for a courageous young woman who outwits the enemy. A vivid tapestry of wartime London.”—Carolyn Hart, author of Escape from Paris
“An engrossing page-turner, with a delightful and spirited new heroine in the aptly named Maggie Hope.”—C. C. Benison, author of Twelve Drummers Drumming
About the Author
Susan Elia MacNeal is the Barry Award–winning and Edgar, Dilys, and Macavity Award–nominated author of the Maggie Hope mysteries, including Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, His Majesty’s Hope, and The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent. She lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and child.
More About the Author
The newest book in the series, MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE, will be published on October 27, 2015.
Her previous books include: PRINCESS ELIZABETH'S SPY, HIS MAJESTY'S HOPE, and THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT. The Maggie Hope novels have been nominated for the ITW Thriller Award, the Dilys Award, the Sue Federer Historical Fiction Award, and the Bruce Alexander Historical Fiction Award.
A former book and magazine editor whose first job was assistant to novelist John Irving, she graduated cum laude and with departmental honors from Wellesley College, cross-registered for courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course at Harvard University.
Susan is married and lives with her husband, Noel MacNeal, a television performer, writer and director, and their son in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Follow on Twitter -- @susanmacneal
Follow on Facebook -- www.facebook.com/susaneliamacneal
Top Customer Reviews
The rackety old Victorian proves difficult to sell and expensive to maintain, so when a couple of her friends quit their jobs and lose the associated housing with the American Embassy after Britain enters the war, she offers to take them in. As London fills up with workers for the war effort, a few more friends take refuge with Maggie, who has determined to stay and support her country of birth. To make ends meet, she takes a job in the Prime Minister's office as a typist, although she thinks it a waste of her degree in mathematics and her language skills.
Visiting the cemetery to lay flowers on the graves of her parents, killed in a traffic accident when she was very young, she is perplexed to find only her mother's grave. She queries her aunt, who confesses that her father had survived the accident, but went mad as a result, and has been permanently institutionalized. Maggie is determined to locate him.
Through a number of characters the story offers a fair representation of the widely differing opinions of Britons about the war. The entwined threads of the missing father and the home-grown terrorism rachet up the suspense to a satisfying and hair-raising conclusion. But the real charm for me is watching the characters cope with rationing, bombing raids, clothing coupons, and all the other vicissitudes - from inconvenience to mortal danger - of wartime London.
She finds herself involved in code breaking, discovering plots and trying to track down her father whom she discovers didn't die in the car crash that killed her mother.
It's an easy read, fast paced with a multi-stranded plot that includes MI5, the IRA, spies and Bletchley Park (the famous decoding center). It was spoiled for me in a few spots (I am a Brit and it was clear the author is not)with the odd phrase that a Brit wouldn't use (and definitely not in the England of 1940) and there were more than a few too many coincidences in the plot that did stretch belief.
Lots of intrigue, some good research into Sadlers Wells and the conversations amongst the characters about differing political views. On the whole it was a pleasant, quick read but not something to stretch the grey cells too much.
The 'meticulous research'--advertised in Bantam's blurbs--needs to be toned down and incorporated seamlessly into the narrative so that one barely notices it, because the history-mystery genre represents a minefield, in which one false step will cause the story to explode in the reader's face, which is what I felt happened about half-way through the book, when the narrative began to lose its credibility.
Such 'explosions' occur when the author trips over anachronisms that betray that she is not really at home in the British world, at least historically. One such has been noted by another reviewer, who observed that women (i.e., 'Aunt Edith') were not awarded Cambridge degrees until 1947.Read more ›
To start, this is not a well-written book. I've read books with lackluster writing in the past, but this takes the cake. The sentences plod, the scenery drags, and it's filled with characters who are more talking heads than real people. Constant conversations about how "there's a war on, you know!" just kill it for me. It's as if the author is so invested in her setting that she neglects things like characterization and showing detail. She's obviously done a lot of research, and tells us - but I never feel like I'm really there. I feel like someone is just telling me that she did a lot of research, and as a result, I can't get lost in the book.
Second, the plot is incredibly clumsy. There's too much in it - again, showing us how much research she's done - and the foreshadowing is weak at best. Apparently, Maggie's father is a big deal, unbeknownst to her, and characters hint at it in quaint exchanges like this: "But then there's Maggie's father..." "She doesn't know about him!" "Yet!" And cue the dramatic music. There's no delicate suspense. Everything is thrown at the reader - there's never a chance to guess which characters are good and which ones aren't, or a chance to really look at a character's flaws, because everything in this novel is black or white. But a hero who has flaws and a villain who can be genuinely good makes for a much more interesting read; but for all of Maggie's "flaws," we're supposed to wink at each other and say that Maggie's still the white knight of the story.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
OK. Although there were many attempts on Churchill's life, this episode described did not happen. Prefer historical fiction closer to realty. Read morePublished 5 days ago by Cherry Stoddard
Mr. Churchill's Secretary is fast paced, full of unexpected turns with 'relatable' characters. The 1st in a series, it stands alone and fits well with the other books to come.Published 5 days ago by N Bieberstein
My very first Maggie Hope novel and, by far, the very best! I love WWII espionage writings, especially in England. Read morePublished 10 days ago by TexasGal
My favorite time in history brought to life in a very good cosy mystery. Well researched plot.Published 10 days ago by Maureen Walsh
Maggie Hope makes an interesting and somewhat different protagonist for this series set in WWII Britain. Read morePublished 11 days ago by Mark A. Wilson
I felt the book was hard to follow. Didn't like the swearing especially in the beginning of the book.Published 11 days ago by Amazon Customer