I reviewed the first book in this series, Churchill's Secretary (click here,) as well as interviewed the author (click here.) I enjoy a good historical mystery, but historical intrigue is particularly a favorite. The second book in this World War II intrigue series is out and here is my review.
Copyright: October 2012 (Bantam) 384 pgs
Series: 2nd in Maggie Hope Adventures
Sensuality: Mild references
Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Intrigue,
Main Characters: Maggie Hope, American in London
Setting: 1941, London England
Obtained Through: Personal Purchase
Picking up shortly after the end of the first book, this book finds Maggie struggling to meet the physical demands of MI-5 training. Her first assignment looms before her and she fears she will get a desk job because of her short comings in the physical training. But she is assigned to Windsor castle undercover as a private Math teacher for Princess Elizabeth. Intelligence reports indicate a plot to kill the king and replace him with his brother who is sympathetic to Hitler. In order for that plan to work, the heir to the throne, fourteen year old Princess Elizabeth would have to be eliminated too. Maggie quickly joins the staff at the war beleaguered castle and suspects something is definitely suspicious when a lady-in-waiting is killed during a ride with the Princesses. Personally, Maggie is trying not to worry herself sick over her boyfriend, a pilot in the Royal Air Force, who was shot down over Germany.
Maggie is smart, sensible, and grateful to do everything she can to help the war effort. She is not sure about her father who remains aloof. She is human in the story, and makes some mistakes that she kicks herself over. She finds the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret to be delightful and the details of their young lives are fascinating. Maggie's dear friend, David Greene, the aide to Churchill also has a key part in the story. I really like his character and appreciated his getting some of the spotlight. The surprise breakout character was actually Princess Elizabeth, with her sense of duty to the people while still a child herself.
Windsor Castle during the war is well portrayed, with hiding in the old dungeons during air raids, the royal jewels simply boxed up and tucked away, and all the paintings removed from frames and stored bringing the stark reality to the situation. The war is ever present.
Obviously, to write a fiction book about significant historical events and people is ambitious and risks criticism. I found the scenarios and overall plot suspenseful and not outrageous. There is some creative license, but that is true in any fiction, and always more so in intrigue. The pacing slows a bit as Maggie adjusts to the castle and the reader is introduced to all the characters and their activities. Events begin to speed up rather quickly and tension is maintained.
The climax is full of nail-biting tension that I fully enjoyed. The wrap-up left the reader with a cliff-hanger, setting up the next book. This creatively utilizes WWII as a rich tableau for Maggie to come into her own. It easily mixes history with suspenseful fiction which makes for enjoyable intrigue and drama. The writing style is not necessarily poetic or high literature, but it cleanly and effectively transports the reader to 1940s England for quite a ride with a few twists and surprises.
Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list.