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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Review - King's Justice

I have followed and reviewed each of the books in the Maggie Hope series since the beginning:  

#1 Mr. Churchill's Secretary (click here)
#2 Princess Elizabeth's Spy (click here
#3 His Majesty's Hope (click here
#4 The Prime Minister's Secret Agent (click here
#5 Mrs Roosevelt's Confidante (click here)
#6 The Queen's Accomplice (click here)
#7 The Paris Spy (click here)
#8  The Prisoner in the Castle (click here)
Plus a wonderful interview with Ms. MacNeal (click here).  

Today I review the newest addition to the series.  Occasionally the Maggie Hope storyline is more of a regular mystery than spying and intrigue.  This is one of those times.  People expecting another great spy adventure be warned, this is a suspenseful search for a killer.

Author: Susan Elia MacNeal

Copyright: February 2020 (Berkley) 354 pgs

Series: 9th in Maggie Hope Mysteries

Sensuality: Moderate

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Mystery

Main Characters: Maggie Hope, American now British Secret Service

Setting: 1942, London

Obtained Through: Library

Cover Blurb:  "Maggie Hope started out as Winston Churchill’s secretary, but now she’s a secret agent—and the only one who can figure out how the missing violin ties into a series of horrifying murders.

London, December 1943. As the Russian army repels German forces from Stalingrad, Maggie Hope takes a much-needed break from spying to defuse bombs in London. But Maggie herself is an explosion waiting to happen. Traumatized by her past, she finds herself living dangerously—taking huge risks, smoking, drinking, and speeding through the city streets on a motorbike. The last thing she wants is to get entangled in another crime.

But when she’s called upon to look into the theft of a Stradivarius, one of the finest violins ever made, Maggie can’t resist. Meanwhile, there’s a serial killer on the loose in London, targeting conscientious objectors. Little does Maggie know that investigating this dangerous predator will pit her against a new evil—and old enemies. Only Maggie can uncover the connection between the robbery, the murders, and a link to her own past." 

Maggie, who originally started out as Churchill's Secretary and is now a Major and hasn't dealt with her emotional baggage from her many harrowing close calls with death.  She is now acting out and reckless, which I understood.  But  be forewarned, this could turn some off.  Detective Chief Inspector James Durgin is the potential romantic interest.  He is likable and thinks the world of Maggie but worries about her current state.  

1940s London is portrayed like I have never read before as we follow Maggie defusing unexploded bombs that dropped during German air raids but didn't detonate.  The bombed out shells of buildings all around captures England's suffering better than any other I have read.  

The plot of hunting a serial killer during such devastating times of hardship is intense to say the least.  The subplot of Maggie working in bomb disposal and her relationships are fraught with the tragedies of the war add to the overall serious tenor of the book.

The killer confrontation is heart-pounding, an adrenaline rush while reading.  The wrap up is tender and sets up the next book taking place in California.

This Maggie isn't the gal we fell in love with in the first book of the series. She feels betrayed by the government (see  The Prisoner in the Castle) and disillusioned after all she has sacrificed.  I think it was necessary to show how damaged the character is from everything in the last eight books. Which is a whole lot of physical and emotional damage.  I kept reading to see how she deals with her bruised psyche as well as solve the murders.  I appreciate the author giving us a realistic Maggie who struggles and falls down occasionally.  

This novel tackles a few tough issues with a deft touch, I felt.  Questions over the death penalty and conscientious objectors are pondered in the context of the story.  I appreciated bringing to light that British objectors worked in bomb disposal and other life saving areas in service to their nation.  While this is a darker story than the prior books with Maggie's emotional wounds and a serial killer to hunt, it is still a well crafted plot with excellent characterization that wraps the reader in that world.

I must give a caveat to readers who look for mistakes.  Each of these books has reviewers on Amazon who seem eager to find every teensy mistake in the minutest of details.  Yes, Maggie calls it oatmeal not porridge (she is American living in England), or the name of a hospital.  I find the nitpicking of the color of a uniform or such more to build up the reader's ego than a good appraisal of the writing and story.  Please don't read the story at all if such minute mistakes are going to outrage you.  Read a history book, not fiction.  I had to get that off my chest.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 

Here is a video of the author talking about this book at the Poisoned Pen bookstore.

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