Thursday, April 05, 2012

Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Title: Mr. Churchill's Secretary
Author: Susan Elia MacNeal
ISBN: 9780553593617
Publisher: Bantam Books, 2012
Paperback, 384 pages
Genre: Cozy, Historical Mystery, #1 Margaret Hope mystery
Rating: B+
Source: the publisher

First Line: Half an hour before Diana Snyder died, she tidied up her desk in the typists' office of the Cabinet War Rooms.

Margaret Hope postpones her Ph.D. studies in advanced mathematics at M.I.T. in order to travel across the Atlantic to sell her deceased grandmother's London home. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in as Prime Minister, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of invasion looms larger each and every day. Margaret finds herself impressed by the spirit and attitude of the English in buckling down to do what must be done-- especially in the face of what Hitler represents to the world-- and she decides to stay to do her part.

Although she graduated at the top of her class and has all the prerequisites for a job with British Intelligence, the only job she can get is as a lowly typist in the offices of the Prime Minister. But even insignificant typists have access to the War Rooms, and Maggie's job exposes her to the machinations of those who are determined to change the course of history.

Once I started Mr. Churchill's Secretary, I could not put the book down. MacNeal created a wonderful cast of characters inhabiting Maggie's house and place of employment, and since there are people wanting to use her for their own ends, there's the added spice of reading and trying to identify the spies, wherever they may be. 

Churchill plays a very small role in the book, and-- as is appropriate for someone with his talent and wit-- he provides one of the best lines in the book when meeting Margaret Hope for the first time: "Yes. We must have hope in this office." Maggie is an excellent character. She's naive-- not used to the spy business at all-- but she's quick-witted, and MacNeal keeps her true to character by not turning this sheltered college graduate into Lara Croft at the first sign of danger.

As the pieces are put into place, the reader is immersed in life in London during the Blitz, and by the time those pieces are all where they should be, the action takes off like a house afire. I haven't had this much enjoyment in reading a book for quite a while, and I'm most certainly looking forward to the next book in the series, Princess Elizabeth's Spy.

12 comments:

  1. I have this book on my list to read soon. Glad that it was a good one. I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. There's another series by Sarah Shaber about a young woman in Washington who works for the OSS (pre CIA). I have the first book in that one too, LOUISE'S WAR. The next is out very soon, LOUISE'S GAMBLE. Anyway, I think both of these sound fun.

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    1. It is a lot of fun, Kay. I hadn't even heard of the book; the publisher sent it to me out of the blue. I've already got the second book in the series on my wish list! LOL

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  2. I just ran across this title for the first time today and was wondering if it was any good. Thanks so much for your review. I can't wait to get this one!

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    1. I certainly hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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  3. Oh, Cathy, you've gotten my interest! I find WWWII fascinating to begin with. And then I'm a sucker for historical mysteries and this sounds like a series I really want to dive into. Thanks!

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    1. You're very welcome, Margot. I hope MacNeal is at the beginning of a good long run!

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  4. This sounds like my kind of book. The inner circle in London in WW II, perfect!

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    1. I normally don't enjoy books that have spies and the like in them, but this one is certainly an exception for my reading taste buds!

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  5. A friend gave me a copy of this book, so I'm glad to see you enjoyed it and couldn't put it down.

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    1. It's the perfect blend of learning a little history and having a lot of fun reading!

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  6. I have this book on my TBR pile, glad to hear you enjoyed it!

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