Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book Review -- Mr. Churchill's Secretary


Mr. Churchill's SecretaryMr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Source:  Personal copy
Genre:  Fiction (not quite historical fiction, not quite mystery)
Objectionable material:  language, including the F-bomb (infrequent at best, though, and totally unnecessary).

Maggie Hope – American, Wellesley grad, gifted mathematician, expat in London, and working directly for Winston Churchill – what more could a girl ask for?

But Maggie’s life is far more complicated: on the eve of World War II, Maggie’s position as typist (well beneath her intellectual capabilities – but she was a WOMAN, after all) provides her access to many of the intimate details of the Battle of Britain. It also puts her in harm’s way – as a potential target for enemy sympathizers. When an innocent “advert” appears in the daily news, Maggie’s keen eyes, and penchant for secret code, puts her at the center of a conspiracy to bring down not only Winston Churchill, but one of London’s most visible landmarks, St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Susan MacNeal has written a spot on period piece, featuring a spunky sleuth, and vivid detail of WWII London. Although a work of fiction, the author used autobiographical details from secretaries who worked for the prime minister, as inspiration.

However, as much as I appreciated her central character and foggy London streets, I thought the “mystery” of the novel was elementary at best: a missing father, an IRA spy roommate, a dead co-worker – with Maggie saving the day in the end – was all rather MacGyver-ish, at best.

But, I did like Maggie enough that I would be willing to read author MacNeal’s second installment in Maggie Hope’s escapades: Princess Elizabeth’s Spy.
 
For those who love Maisie Dobbs or Bess Crawford, Maggie Hope would be a comparable read.