Monday, February 24, 2020

The King's Justice by Susan Elia MacNeal


First Line: Each incoming tide of the Thames brought another layer of debris, and, when the waters receded, mysteries could be found buried in the silt.

Not many people would consider defusing bombs in London as a relaxing break from spying, but then they aren't Maggie Hope. Her war began with being Winston Churchill's secretary and her resume has grown since then. However, everything she's done has taken a toll on her.

In an effort to avoid thinking about some of the things she's done (or that have been done to her), she finds herself enjoying living life on the edge: defusing bombs, riding a motorcycle at breakneck speed on London's bombed out streets, drinking too much, smoking too much. Her friends see the change in her, but they don't know what to do.

When she's asked to look into the theft of a Stradivarius, one of the finest violins ever made, Maggie can't resist, although she found it easy to refuse to help with the manhunt for a serial killer who's targeting conscientious objectors. Little does she know that she's the only one who can uncover the connection between the robbery, the murders, and a link to her own past.

I've been a fan of Susan Elia MacNeal's Maggie Hope series since the very first book, Mr. Churchill's Secretary, and it's been a joy to watch it get stronger with each new book. The King's Justice follows this trend. As always, MacNeal can easily put us right in the middle of wartorn London by inserting facts about the Tower of London being hit during the Blitz, giving names and histories to the ravens at the Tower, mudlarking, and defusing bombs (which reminded me of watching Anthony Andrews in Danger UXB). But it was what I learned about conscientious objectors that had the most effect on me, and I really liked how it was woven into the story.

As much as I learn about World War II and the people who fought in it by reading these books, it's the character of Maggie Hope who always brings me back. She's quite simply amazing. Starting out as rather naive, she's grown so much, learned so much, and her quick wits and steely resolve have gotten her out of more than one hair-raising circumstance. The thing that I like about Maggie the most is-- regardless of what she's done-- she's not Wonder Woman. Bullets don't bounce off her. Everything she's done, everything she's experienced, has had an effect on her, and in The King's Justice, we see it all coming to a crisis point. She's got what we now call PTSD, and how she realizes it and how she works through it is one of the best parts of the book.

By the book's end, Maggie has a new adventure awaiting her, one that I'm really looking forward to. That's about the only bad thing about a wonderful series like the one Susan Elia MacNeal has created: the interminable wait for the next book. If you're new to the series, you can read this as a standalone, but I strongly advise against it. You'll miss too much just in character development alone. Start with Mr. Churchill's Secretary. (You can thank me later.) As for all you fellow Maggie Hope fans, rejoice! You've got another excellent book to savor!


The King's Justice by Susan Elia MacNeal
eISBN: 9780399593857
Random House © 2020
eBook, 352 pages

Historical Mystery, #9 Maggie Hope mystery
Rating: A+
Source: Net Galley

17 comments:

  1. Wow! It got an A+, "best of 2020" rating. It must be good. I'm not that keen on British historical novels, but the main character sounds very interesting. Glad you are enjoying this series.

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    1. The main character is a strong female, just the type you like to read about.

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  2. It's so nice when a book lives up to the promise of the series it's in, isn't it, Cathy? And when they're done well, I do like historical mysteries. One of the things that appeals to me here, too, is that the protagonist strikes that balance between being a strong character, and being human (and therefore, vulnerable) as we all are.

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    1. I'm really looking forward to the next book in this series!

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  3. My book club will read the 1st one next month. This review adds to my anticipation :)

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    1. You've got some mighty fine reading ahead of you!

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  4. Yes, it sounds interesting about the main character and the serial killer pursuing conscientious objectors.

    I knew a neighbor (with kids my age) who was a conscientious objector in WW II. He just could not kill or hurt anyone. He also was the first vegetarian I ever met because he couldn't eat animals. A lot of principles in that family.

    Even though I support the war against fascism in Europe, I do understand his poiint of view and sympathize with his sentiments.

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    1. I do, too-- and in many cases, it has been proven that the conscientious objectors were even braver than those who carried weapons. (I just reminded myself of the film "Hacksaw Ridge.")

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  5. Thank you for this review. The book sounds riveting.

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  6. I have and had friends who were conscientious objectors during the Vietnam war. A few went to prison. I don't see them anymore, but I do see a friend who was drafted and has war wounds, including shrapnel, uses crutches and has PTSD. And I ask why.

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    1. Yes. With WW2 at least there was the sense of fighting a great evil. Since then, it seems that we have wars whenever rich men want to line their pockets. You'll remember this as well as I do: "What if they gave a war and nobody came?"

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  7. True, but during the Vietnam war there was the draft so many people, especially young men had no choice, or they went to Canada or to jail or then got married and had children. Now a lot of low-income people sign up to get educations paid for and to get a job and then they are sent on three or four or more "tours" to various war-torn countries. And they come back seriously injured, if they make it through or with PTSD or both. Many are homeless or jobless and the suicide rate is very high among veterans.

    If they do enlist and return, they should be well taken care of, with health care, housing, jobs, mental health help, etc. I mean, they sacrificed and saw horrors and they should be supported in what they need.

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    1. Of course they should! I never meant to imply otherwise. (All the veterans in my family would disinherit me.)

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  8. Oh, I didn't think you disagreed. I'm just thinking about jobless, homeless veterans and those with terrible injuries and PTSD and the suicides. A 57-year-old veteran in my city was released from a VA hospital, and then that night he froze to death in a garage, as he was homeless. I'm stil not over reading about him.

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