Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary
by Susan Elia MacNeal

The first five volumes of the “Maggie Hope” series by Susan Elia MacNeal were the assigned reading topic for the January 2016 meeting of the Lincoln City Libraries’ Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group. Mr. Churchill’s Secretary launched the series, in 2012. Set in the early days of World War II, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary features our plucky heroine, American-raised but British-born Maggie Hope, taking a position in the typing pool of the newly elected British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Maggie is well-educated, and particularly experienced in mathematics and understanding codes. While we come to meet all the people in Maggie’s life and work, we also see two separate plots unfolding behind the scenes, involving a potential assassination attempt against the PM and another to blow up Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

Maggie Hope is an interesting main character, but at times she seems almost too good to be true. And while her struggles to achieve recognition and respect in a male-dominated culture will resonate with a modern-day reading audience, her forward thinking stances seemed a bit out of place in this novel. Additionally, despite extensive historical research on the part of MacNeal, annoying inaccuracies occasionally popped up. None-the-less, the writing style is nice and fresh, and the world of London during the nightly German blitzes felt well described — I was reminded of the world of the British TV mini-series, Danger UXB. And the world of codebreakers that Maggie interacts with reminded me of another British series, The Bletchley Circle.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the additional volumes in this ongoing series by MacNeal] [ official Susan Elia MacNeal web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

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