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The Prime Minister's Secret Agent (Maggie Hope) Paperback – July 1, 2014
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Back from a deadly undercover mission in Berlin in 1941 (His Majesty’s Hope, 2013), agent Maggie Hope feels dead inside. Working as an instructor at the Scottish black-ops base where she herself was trained, Maggie is plagued with what Churchill calls the “black dog” of depression. But when she takes time off to see a friend’s ballet performance in Edinburgh and becomes involved in a murder investigation, her senses are reawakened. At the same time, the U.S. and Japan are involved in a futile diplomatic dance, with Churchill desperately wanting further American participation in the war effort and December 7 fast approaching. Even with the outcome known, MacNeal builds up pre–Pearl Harbor suspense, as coded messages fly back and forth, sometimes being delayed or dismissed because of their messengers. In her fourth solidly researched Maggie Hope mystery, MacNeal details small slips that lead to great tragedies as she lays the groundwork for a post-Pearl mission for Maggie. A treat for WWII buffs and mystery lovers alike. --Michele Leber
Praise for The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent
“[A] stellar series . . . [Susan Elia] MacNeal has written an impeccably researched, wonderfully engaging story.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A treat for WWII buffs and mystery lovers alike.”—Booklist
“[MacNeal] seamlessly mixes fact and fiction.”—Publishers Weekly
“Splendid . . . riveting . . . The research is complete and fascinating. . . . The scenes are so detailed that readers will feel as if they are next to the characters and listening to them speaking.”—RT Book Reviews (Top Pick)
“Fans of Jacqueline Winspear and Charles Todd will feast on this riveting series chronicling Britain’s own ‘Greatest Generation.’ MacNeal’s research and gift for dialogue shine through on every page, transporting the reader to Churchill’s inner circle. The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent is both top-drawer historical fiction and mystery in its finest hour.”—Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times bestselling author of Through the Evil Days
Praise for Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope mysteries
“You’ll be [Maggie Hope’s] loyal subject, ready to follow her wherever she goes.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“A heart-pounding novel peopled with fully drawn real and fictional characters . . . provides the thrills that readers have come to expect from MacNeal.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch, on His Majesty’s Hope
“With false starts, double agents, and red herrings . . . MacNeal provides a vivid view of life both above and below stairs at Windsor Castle.”—Publishers Weekly, on Princess Elizabeth’s Spy
Top customer reviews
From the beginning of The Prime Minister's Secret Agent a shroud of depression and exhaustion seems to hang over not only Maggie but the British people. They've been staying strong for so long as bombs (both literal and figurative) have rained down on them, but without an end in sight and without much hope that America will join them in bringing down Hitler, their stiff upper lip seems to be slipping. I hated seeing Maggie so down and unhappy, battling her "black dog" of depression and PTSD for much of the novel. The mystery of why and how her friend became so sick gives her something to do, but not much else really happens to Maggie during the story. More time was given to the real-life American and Japanese people surrounding the bombing of Pearl Harbor, an action that sets up Maggie's journey to America with Churchill in the next installment, than was given to any real development on Maggie's part. This isn't to say that seeing the politics behind the eventual bombing of Pearl Harbor wasn't interesting, it just wasn't what I was expecting or wanting from a Maggie Hope novel. I wanted more Maggie!
This being said, there were a lot of interesting elements that kept me turning the pages. We get to learn a little bit about floriography, poisoning and secret British testing with biological warfare. We also get to see Churchill begin to unravel somewhat and see what he's willing to sacrifice to win this war. Best of all, in my opinion, is the storyline dealing with Maggie's mother, Clara - a Nazi spy due to be executed by the British for her crimes - and her multiple personality disorder that might be real and might be just another manipulation by a master manipulator. This element really helped solidify my understanding of Clara's backstory and made her even more interesting than I already found her. And let me just say the cliffhanger at the end of the novel involving Clara has me ready to jump into book number five ASAP!
In many ways, The Prime Minister's Secret Agent felt more like a transition between novels than a novel itself. The concentration is more on getting the Americans involved in the war than developing Maggie's character and, while it is still an enjoyable novel, it didn't satisfy my need for the character I've come to love in Maggie. I should also note that anyone new to the series could easily pick this book up and be caught up with previous events within the first few chapters (Susan Elia MacNeal does an exceptional job of weaving the backstory in so you never feel like you're missing something) but I would definitely recommend starting with book one as each book in the series is quite enjoyable. The set up for the next novel in the series sees Maggie ready to travel back to America, not only with Churchill but with her friend David and her old flame John, and I very much look forward to seeing Maggie on her old stomping grounds, to meeting the aunt who raised her and to hopefully seeing some old friends from previous novels that didn't make it into this one. And with the cliffhanger ending I mentioned above, it's shaping up to be quite the adventure!
1) The quality of the writing is top-notch. Not just the prose, which is intelligent and interesting and smooth like a deliciously aged, perfected glass of wine, but also the plotting which is intricate and grounded in logic and possibility and there are never any of those last minute surprise solutions which come from nowhere to neatly tie up a complicated plot.
2) The characters! I love how the people in this series, Maggie especially, grow and change and evolve, just as people do in real life. And, as they do, so do their relationships. Susan Elia MacNeal's writing is so in the moment and spot-on about human nature that one can't help but start to think of these characters as friends, and as with friends, one finds one's self SHOUTING advice at them, tsking, worrying, weeping, involved in their lives.
3) The historical details are riveting. I have never been a history person, but Susan Elia MacNeal effortlessly weaves fascinating details and atmosphere into these stories, some of which have led me to do further research and reading on my own to learn more.
4) The world. Susan Elia MacNeal has managed to make each episode a stand alone while also connecting the series into a reality of people and connections and mysteries enriched by reading the series in order. This is the fourth in the series of which I currently own all seven but am rationing because I don't want to run out of Maggie.
5) Relevance. Maggie Hope is living in a world and time where hate and horrors committed by those in power are endangering the entire human race. Some stand up to the disease of moral turpitude, while others cower or surrender to what seems expedience, staying silent and inactive in the face of amoral, criminal, repugnant, and unforgivable behavior by those in power. Maggie does not. Despite the personal cost and sorrow, the danger and the despair, she does not compromise her morals nor surrender to evil. She can teach us all a lesson now in this age of a United States being run by an election stealing fascist and his enabling party of hypocrites and bigots.
And so, there are a few of the reasons I return to Maggie, and Susan Elia MacNeal's wonderful series, when I am in need of a visit with a friend and an injection of hope and belief in my life.