BBB Book Review - Mr Churchill's Secretary

Monday, 6 April 2015

Mr Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Now and again I like to ignore the age old adage of "don't judge a book by it's cover." Occasionally I like to pop into The Works as they often have 3 books for £5, which are usually quite unusual or unknown. I spotted the cover of this book due to the leading lady's striking red hair and the bomber planes in the background. When the corner title implied it was a mystery novel, for the price, I had to give it (and the next two novels in the series) a try.

"London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.

Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself."

My keen eye for an attractive cover served me well on this occasion, and I was hooked throughout! I've always been a bit of a lover of WW2 Home Front fiction and mystery novels are usually my genre of choice.  As the novel is set against the backdrop of real events and feature real people you have to expect some level of artistic licence with some things. The book is a work of fiction and doesn't pretend to be entirely accurately historical. That being said it seems well researched and references the era well.  To some extent I could have happily just read about Maggie's strife's of living in war torn London, but add in codebreaking, Bletchley and MI5 and I was a happy little bookworm. At first you wouldn't necessarily know it is a mystery novel as the sections featuring Maggie are generally about her day to day life, but every now and again there are little snippets of other people that hint that Maggie's life may be about to get a bit more complex.

I found Maggie a likeable character and although other reviews I have read have commented that she is not entirely believable, I feel that her level of intellect is clearly backed up by her character biography. Without spoiling the plot line I liked the way the story twists and turns and it's been a while since I've sped through a book so quickly. I've already started the next book in the series!

Can you recommend any other books like Maggie Hope that I might enjoy reading? 

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